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MIlitary Spouses Facing Citizenship Struggles

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on December 24, 2018

Despite the military service of their husbands and wives, military spouses who are in the country illegally may be deported and might need help to adjust their statuses. One does not need to be U.S. citizens to join the U.S. Armed Forces, but they do have to be lawful permanent residents. Once they have served on active duty, they are eligible to apply for naturalization as U.S. citizens. Unfortunately, these same protections do not appear to apply to spouses of military members when the spouses are undocumented. Some spouses may be able to apply for the parole waiver program so that they can seek to adjust their status without having to leave the U.S., but it is unclear how many people have been granted these waivers under the current administration.

The Spousal Deportation Problem

Under the immigration laws, people who have previously entered the country illegally and who have signed expedited removal orders must leave the U.S. before they can apply for visas. These laws apply to people even if they have gotten married to U.S. citizens and have had U.S-born children. Before the current administration, spouses of military service members who had entered the country illegally could potentially be granted parole waivers, which allowed them to remain in the country while they applied to have their statuses adjusted. However, the current administration’s stepped-up enforcement of laws against illegal immigration has led to problems of spouses being deported despite the fact that their spouses are active duty service members, some of whom are deployed when they are deported.

One woman, Alejandra Juarez, is illustrative of the problem. She entered the U.S. illegally in 1998. She was caught and told to sign an expedited removal order, which she did. She was then sent back to Mexico and reentered the U.S. a few days later. She later met and married a U.S. resident who was a member of the Marine Corps. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2002, and the couple had two children. Juarez applied to adjust her status repeatedly but was told that she couldn’t because she had signed the expedited removal order in 1998. She was deported in Aug. 2018 despite her husband’s military service.

According to American Families United, there are an estimated 11,800 military families that could be impacted by deportations. It is unclear how many people have been granted parole waivers since the current administration came into power.