DOD Aims to Advance Citizenship Education

  • Published
  • By David Vergun
  • DOD News

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.

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.

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.

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.

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