Citizenship Denied: Implications of the Naturalization Backlog for Noncitizens in the Military

38 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2020 Last revised: 7 Jul 2020

See all articles by Ming Hsu Chen

Ming Hsu Chen

UC Hastings College of Law; University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: February 15, 2020


The immigration system is in crisis. Long lines of asylum seekers at the border and immigrants in the interior spend years waiting for their day in immigration court. This is true in the agencies that process applications for immigration benefits from legal immigrants as well. Since 2016, delays in naturalization have increased to historic proportions. The problem is even worse for military naturalizations, where delays are accompanied by denials and overall declines in military naturalizations. It is the latest front in the battle on legal migration and citizenship.

These impediments to citizenship demonstrate an extreme form of policies collectively dubbed the “second wall.” These policies are animated by mistrust of foreigners and immigrant restrictionism, bureaucratic bungling and institutional neglect for service members, and overreliance on national security justifications. These changes affront civil and voting rights for immigrants, diminish military enlistment, and undermine the institutions of citizenship and democracy. This Article documents barriers to citizenship. More specifically, it analyzes the causes and consequences of citizenship denials in general and military naturalization. It offers solutions that bolster immigrants, the military, and the meaning of citizenship for those seeking to obtain it and confronting institutional barriers.

Suggested Citation

Chen, Ming Hsu, Citizenship Denied: Implications of the Naturalization Backlog for Noncitizens in the Military (February 15, 2020). 98 Denver Law Review 669 (2020), U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-8, Available at SSRN:

Ming Hsu Chen (Contact Author)

UC Hastings College of Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA CA 94102
United States
94010 (Fax)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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