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No, the Trump Admin is not ending automatic citizenship for children of U.S. military members

President Trump reviews troops with Generals at Headquarters of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, FL / Facebook

Washington D.C. – The Trump Administration is not ending the right of children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces born overseas to automatically be United States citizens, despite multiple news reports and viral tweets claiming otherwise.

At issue is an update to a “highly technical policy manual” according to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli.

On Twitter, Cuccinelli said, “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.”

In a series of tweets, Cuccinelli went on to say, “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.

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.

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.”

In summary, children born to parents who are U.S. citizens will still be U.S. citizens and the procedures will be aligned with the procedures the U.S. State Department uses.

The story quickly went viral, with initial reporting by CNN and other news outlets covering a policy alert from USCIS but ignoring the pieces of the memo that described that children born under INA 320, such as those who have at least one parent who is a U.S. Citizen, automatically gain U.S. Citizenship.

Ultimately it was revealed that the policy change that had caused so much consternation due to incomplete media coverage will only affect about 100 children per year.

Those children affected would be those born to a parent serving in the Armed Forces who is a naturalized citizen but has not established residence in the United States for the required period of time. In situations such as that, the changes to the policy manual provide a procedure that should be followed for the parent to ensure the child gains citizenship.

No child who was previously eligible for U.S. Citizenship is made ineligible under the policy change.

Some reporters had to backtrack after participating in what amounted to a false attack on the Trump administration.

NBC’s Ken Dilanian tweeted that he had deleted previous inaccurate tweets on the issue and clarified that the change in the procedure would only affect a small number of children, such as children adopted overseas by service members:

But that didn’t stop Trump opponents, such as Joe Biden, from using the issue as a blunt force instrument once the public’s attention had been directed toward incorrect information.

At least nine hours after Ken Dilanian at NBC and others began correcting their stories and deleting tweets, Presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted an article suggesting that children born to U.S. citizens would lose their ability to be automatically considered U.S. citizens. Despite that news already being debunked, Biden tweeted that it was “reprehensible and cruel.”

It has been a banner week for news stories that turned out not to be true or at least, not as they were originally presented. Three different stories that almost instantly went viral have all now been debunked.

In addition to the story covered in this article,  Lawrence O’Donnell at MSNBC was forced to retract and apologize for an apparently false story about President Trump’s finances.

Along with those two stories, a viral story attacking Attorney General Bill Barr for holding a large party turned out to be nothing more than the AG splurging on a party for his friends with his own personal money. Initial reporting on that story suggested Barr was using taxpayer funds to throw the party, which he clearly was not.

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