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DOD Aims to Advance Citizenship Education

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On Feb. 2, President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14012, "Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans."

"Our nation is enriched socially and economically by the presence of immigrants, and we celebrate with them as they take the important step of becoming United States citizens. The federal government should develop welcoming strategies that promote integration, inclusion and citizenship, and it should embrace the full participation of the newest Americans in our democracy," Biden stated in the executive order.

Two male sailors display a certificate.
Certificate of Naturalization
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Habib Jalloh receives a certificate of naturalization from Navy Lt. Andrew Decker, legal assistance department head assigned to Region Legal Service Office Western Pacific, during a naturalization ceremony aboard the Japanese Memorial Ship Mikasa in Yokosuka, Japan, June 2, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler R. Fraser, Navy
VIRIN: 210602-N-HH215-1048C

As a result of EO 14012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services developed the "Interagency Strategy for Promoting Naturalization."

A large part of that strategy was the establishment of a Naturalization Working Group; the Defense Department, along with the other federal departments, is a member.

The goals of the NWG are:

  • Raising awareness of the importance of citizenship
  • Promoting civic integration and inclusion
  • Providing immigrants with opportunities and tools to become fully engaged citizens
  • Building community capacity to prepare immigrants for citizenship
  • Eliminating sources of fear and other barriers that prevent individuals from accessing available naturalization services
  • Advancing and ensuring equity throughout the citizenship and naturalization process the basis of race, disability, language access, national origin, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation

To advance these goals, NWG has outlined steps the federal government should take to promote naturalization.

Seven men and women hold up their right hands outdoors on a ship.
Oath of Allegiance
Sailors and civilians take the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony aboard the Japanese Memorial Ship Mikasa in Yokosuka, Japan, June 2, 2021. The seven are originally from Cote d’Ivoire, the Philippines, Sierra Leone and Taiwan became naturalized citizens of the United States.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler R. Fraser, Navy
VIRIN: 210602-N-HH215-1012C

NWG recommended that DOD' legal services offices and others assisting in the naturalization process establish an education and awareness campaign.

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security — in particular, USCIS — is tasked with helping DOD provide outreach to military service members. This includes creating a military naturalization webpage on the USCIS Citizenship Resource Center website. The webpage will contain information, checklists and study guides tailored to military members and their families. 

DOD has been tapped to explore ways to expand its internal communications efforts about applying for naturalization and the requirements that are involved.

Five service members display certificates.
New Citizens
Service members display their certificates of naturalization after becoming U.S. citizens at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Sept. 24, 2009.
Photo By: Army Sgt. David Nun
VIRIN: 090924-A-D0439-014

USCIS will explore offering webinars with additional special naturalization education and awareness information for the administrative and legal personnel who assist military service members. 

Additionally, USCIS will consider alternative avenues for engaging and processing naturalization applications for military members and their families overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic and while travel restrictions are in place.

Through its Service Members and Veterans Initiative, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division will help disseminate naturalization information on the initiative webpage. DOJ will also include information in outreach materials to military installations and its military related networks — including chiefs of military legal assistance and the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel.

Sailors participate in a naturalization ceremony.
Naturalization Ceremony
From left: Army Spc. Rigoberto Montoya Arcega, from Mexico, attached to Medical Department Activity Japan at Camp Zama; Navy Seaman Carl Jefferson Robles Dela Cruz, from the Philippines, attached to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius; and, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Luis Mendoza Abad, from the Philippines, attached to the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville, take the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony held aboard Milius stationed at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, June 17, 2021. Rebecca Maliuwelur, Guam field officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, administered the oath virtually.
Photo By: Ryo Isobe, Navy
VIRIN: 210617-N-JT445-1027C

Additionally, USCIS will engage with the Department of Veterans Affairs and veteran service organizations to discuss opportunities to educate service members and veterans about citizenship.


Service Members and Veterans Initiative

Citizenship Resource Center

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