MILITARY PERSONNEL CITIZENSHIP PROCESSING ACT -- (House of Representatives - September 27, 2008)
Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I would like to associate myself with the remarks made by my Texas colleague, Mr. Rodriguez.
Mr. Speaker, the Military Personnel Citizenship Processing Act creates an Office of the
FBI Liaison within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This office will monitor the progress of naturalization applications filed by veterans and military personnel.
It will also monitor the progress of naturalization applications filed by spouses of active duty soldiers stationed abroad. And the Liaison Office will track the naturalization process for the soldiers and their spouses and children who are eligible for citizenship under the provisions that grant posthumous citizenship to military personnel who die in service to the country.
The intent behind the establishment of this Liaison Office is to address the delays that often occur in the processing of the necessary background checks for these categories of applicants.
The haste under which this bill was added to the suspension calendar precludes any meaningful assessment of the need for such an office. However, I do not object to measures that facilitate the processing of naturalization applications of those who have honorably served our country or their spouses and children.
This bill also requires USCIS to make a decision on these applications within 6 months of filing or, in circumstances in which that is not possible, to provide the reasons why. This is not an onerous burden since USCIS will still have the flexibility needed to be sure that all required security checks and eligibility criteria are met before granting citizenship.
In this Congress, we have already passed legislation to ease the processing of naturalization applications for our soldiers. The Kendall Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act became law on June 26th of this year. That law permits soldiers to use the fingerprints they provided at the time of enlistment for their background checks.
That law also requires the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of the FBI to take steps to ensure that soldiers' naturalization applications are adjudicated within 180 days after the background checks have been completed. This bill furthers those goals.
The bill provides, but does not require, an earlier target date of 6 months after the filing of the application. But in cases in which that time frame cannot be met--even with the new FBI liaison office created under this bill--USCIS will need to explain why.
I have no objection to these measures, which are intended to ensure the timely adjudication of naturalization applications filed by those who have served our Nation, and urge my colleagues to support the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.