Active military, veterans ask USCIS to help their family members become US citizens

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Members of the military get high priority when they’re seeking to become U.S. citizens, but that’s not always true for their families.

Guadalupe Acosta is in his late 20s and already a veteran of two wars. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dressed in his Army uniform, his eyes teared up when reporters asked him whether he felt that fighting for his country was worth the sacrifice. What’s most important to him now, he said, is being able to get legal immigration status for his wife, who is undocumented.

“What I’m trying to get today is just an exception," said Acosta. "So that we could have the same process that active duty members go through to get status for my wife. I served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and I’m just trying to support my wife as much as I can.”

“I mean, I’m not upset at the administration for it," he added. "But I am upset that they don’t take us into consideration after serving eight years when other people just got in; I think it’s unfair.”

Two years ago, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued guidelines to help get papers for the undocumented spouses and children of those serving in the military. But this benefit doesn’t extend to parents of service members, nor to family members of those no longer in active duty, like Acosta.

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles is asking the federal government to revise its guidelines. The organization says that as the number of veterans returning from war continues to increase, the immigration status of their family members is of great concern.

For its part, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says it recognizes the sacrifices made by non-U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces and their families.

The agency says the law is currently designed to help the dependents of those who are or will be deployed to war.

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