USCIS Chief Ken Cuccinelli Deflates Fake News Scare About Military Kids’ Citizenship

Acting Director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli speaks during a briefing at the White House August 12, 2019, in Washington, DC. - The administration of US President Donald Trump announced Monday new rules that aim to deny permanent residency and citizenship benefits to migrants who receive …
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s citizenship chief had to talk down a media panic late Wednesday after reporters interpreted a minor regulatory correction as a big plan to deny citizenship to the overseas-born children of U.S. military service members.

“Folks who are going crazy rt now in the media, no changes have been made to citizenship – statement coming shortly,” said a tweet by Ken Cuccinelli, director the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). His tweet went out around 5:00 PM, a few hours after the reporter started the panic at 1.23 PM.

Cuccinelli’s tweets continued:

For those of you wondering what I’m talking about, … see next tweet…

…the highly technical policy manual used by career employees here as a reference was updated today to conform USCIS practices with the Dept. of State – that’s it. But some people are freaking out over nothing.

Here’s the statement I promised (1/3): The policy manual update today does not affect who is born a U.S. citizen, period. It only affects children who were born outside the US and were not US citizens. This does NOT impact birthright citizenship.

2/3) The policy update doesn’t deny citizenship to the children of US gov employees or members of the military born abroad. This policy aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedures for these children – that’s it. Period.

3/3) US laws allow children to acquire US citizenship other than through birth in the US. Children born outside of the US to a US citizen parent or parents may be US citizens at birth under INA 301 or 309, or before age 18 through their US citizen parent(s) under INA 320.

But many pro-migration progressives and Democrats wanted to believe Trump’s deputies would try to deny citizenship to the American children of American soldiers, sailors, airman, and marines:

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego tweeted:

Snopes.com credited the scare to Tal Kopan, the D.C. correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle:

On Aug. 28, 2019, a tweet from the San Francisco Chonicle’s Tal Kopan reported that newly issued guidance from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) meant that children born to U.S. service members stationed outside the United States would not automatically be considered U.S. citizens:

Kopan’s message quickly broadcast by other establishment journalists:

TheHill.com also broadcast the claim with a story that went viral:

The Trump administration said Wednesday that the children of some U.S. military members and government employees working overseas will no longer automatically be considered United States citizens.

The tweet suggested the policy would apply to the children of U.S. citizens who are service members:

Democratic media outlets pumped the claim. Shareblue Media posted a headline “Trump looking to deport families of troops serving overseas.”

The claim quickly spread via Twitter:

But immigration lawyers and USCIS officials rushed to correct the fake news, forcing multiple media retractions:

The 7:00 PM version of the Hill.com’s story included this paragraph:

USCIS issued a clarification to the rule later Wednesday, explaining that the new rule would only affect three categories of people: Children of non-U.S. citizens adopted by U.S. citizen government employees or service members; children of non-U.S. citizen government employees or service members who were naturalized after the child’s birth; and children of U.S. citizens who do not meet residency requirements.

Media outlets blamed “confusion” — not the establishment media’s hair-trigger suspicions of Trump’s policies — for the media panic. TheHill’s report, for example, said:

The rollout of the new rule quickly sparked widespread confusion, leading some to believe that many more individuals would be affected than in actuality.

“This kind of memo is the sort of thing that you don’t put out to the general public without a very bold-faced letter executive summary saying ‘Here’s what this does not do,’” said Bradley Moss, a lawyer with expertise in national security.

The Washington Post ran with the scare story, but eventually added the caveats:

Most establishment journalists who cover immigration share the pro-immigration perspective of immigrants and business. Few media people cover the immigration beat from the perspective of most Americans who want to like immigration — but who also want to preserve their jobs, civic rules, and their children’s’ futures.

 

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