On Tuesday, August 25th, a D.C. federal court ruled the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) unlawfully imposed service duration requirements for foreign military recruits seeking to obtain citizenship. According to U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, the DOD does not have the authority to set naturalization eligibility standards.
Judge Huvelle’s ruling is based on the Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs immigration proceedings. According to Judge Huvelle, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) holds sole authority under the act to determine whether foreign members of the military have served honorably when adjudicating citizenship applications.
The immigration statute does not explicitly define what “served honorably” in the military means. However, the DOD does not have the authority to define the term for USCIS according to the court’s opinion. Judge Huvelle explains that the statute contemplates a role for the Department of Defense, which is limited to certifying a foreign military member’s honorable service. However, the department cannot rewrite the statute to define standards for N-426 certificates.