Immigrants have served in the United States Armed Forces since the founding of our country, fighting in every major conflict in American history. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants pledged to defend the United States with their lives in the Civil War, both World Wars, and conflicts like those in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
An estimated 511,000 foreign-born veterans – many of whom are citizens – live in the U.S., with approximately 40,000 immigrants actively serving today. An average of 7,000 legal permanent residents enlist each year, and more than 100,000 immigrants have served and earned citizenship through the military in the last twenty years. Over the last century, military service has provided a pathway to American citizenship for more than 760,000 immigrant service members.
But naturalization rates for service members fell a staggering 43% in 2019 from the previous year. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) only naturalized 4,135 individuals in FY2018, compared to 7,228 the year prior. For comparison, USCIS completed 11,230 military naturalizations in 2010, the highest rate in the data USCIS has published.