Obama to Agencies: Do A Better Job Helping Immigrants in the Military Navigate Government

Olivier Douliery / Pool via CNP /MediaPunch/IPX

President Obama on Thursday directed federal agencies to do a better job making sure immigrants who serve in the U.S. military and their families have access to benefits and other assistance for which they are eligible.

Despite the efforts of the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs to help provide services and opportunities to those service members and military families interacting with the immigration system (including foreign-born residents and naturalized citizens), there are still “barriers” to that aid, said the Dec. 22 memorandum from Obama.

The memo creates a new interagency working group to coordinate records, benefits, immigration and citizenship services for those service members, vets and their families as well as educate them about the naturalization process and available assistance. In addition to Defense, Homeland Security and the VA, the working group will be made up of officials from Justice, Labor and State.

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The president directed the group to develop an initial three-year strategic plan within 30 days of the memo to improve access to immigration services and benefits, and to submit a more detailed plan within 120 days.

“New American service members are undoubtedly a critical element of our national security,” Obama said in the memo. “They risk their lives all over the world in the name of the United States, securing shipping lanes, protecting bases and embassies, providing medical assistance and conducting humanitarian missions. Tens of thousands of lawful permanent residents and naturalized U.S. citizens currently serve in our Armed Forces. Many more are veterans who have served previously in the Armed Forces.”

Since 2001, more than 110,000 service members have been naturalized, including through the Naturalization at Basic Training initiative.

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