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Expand chart
Adapted from Migration Policy Institute; Chart: Axios Visuals

Immigrants have helped protect America through U.S. military service throughout most of the nation's history. But it's becoming harder for non-citizens to enlist — and to gain citizenship after their service.

The big picture: 2.4 million of the nation's veterans were born outside the U.S. or are children of immigrants, according to the Migration Policy Institute — 13% of the overall veteran population.

  • The latest: Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services acting director Ken Cuccinelli will conduct a special Veterans Day naturalization ceremony. The 12 service members and veterans attaining citizenship join more than 760,000 who have become citizens through military service in the past century, according to MPI.

By the numbers: 17% of immigrant veterans came from Mexico, while another 17% came from the Philippines. In addition, 5% are from Germany, 4% from Colombia and 4% from the United Kingdom, according to MPI.

  • Veterans who served in the military before becoming U.S. citizens are likely to have served longer than their citizen counterparts, according to another MPI study.

Legal permanent residents, refugees, temporary visa holders and even DACA recipients have enlisted to serve in the U.S. military, as well as first-generation citizens whose parents came from other places.

  • Almost 300 foreign-born service members gave their lives in combat between September 2001 and 2013, according to MPI.

But over the past several years — under Barack Obama and now President Trump — it's become harder for non-citizens to enlist, and for immigrant veterans to become citizens.

  • Military members were denied citizenship at a higher rate than civilians this year, according to McClatchy. The number of service members who have applied for citizenship also fell.
  • Since 2016, the Department of Defense has added more strict vetting requirements for non-citizens who wish to enlist through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, out of concerns for national security. They have also added requirements for obtaining expedited citizenship through military service.
  • Last year, the Army discharged more than 500 immigrants who were recruited through MANVI, the AP reported. The program was created to recruit non-citizens with needed language and health care skills, but has been effectively frozen.
    • More than a thousand of the program's recruits have had visas and legal status expire while waiting for a background check as of May 2017 — putting them in jeopardy of deportation, according to MPI.
  • Immigrants are being denied enlistment for "arbitrary reasons," Muzaffar Chishti, director of MPI's NYU School of Law location, told Axios. "There doesn’t seem to be a coherent security-based reason to deny people. There are generalized suspicions.”

Even after serving in the military, some immigrant service members can be subject to deportation if convicted of crimes.

  • Marine Corps veteran Jose Segovia-Benitez made headlines last month after being deported from the U.S. —  his home since age 3 — to his native El Salvador because of felony convictions, the Orange County Register reported. He had served two tours in Iraq.
  • Some of his supporters say that despite the convictions, the deportation was unfair given his service and the the brain injury he received while overseas, according to the Register.

Go deeper

41 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: More boycotts coming for Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Leaders of the Stop Hate For Profit social media boycott group are discussing whether to organize another campaign against Facebook in light of an explosive investigative series from The Wall Street Journal, Common Sense CEO Jim Steyer tells Axios.

The intrigue: Sources tell Axios that another group, separate from the Stop Hate For Profit organization, is expected to launch its own ad boycott campaign this week.

Democrats' dwindling 2022 map

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats are trying to unseat only about half as many Republican House members next year as they did in 2020, trimming their target list from 39 to 21.

Why it matters: The narrowing map — which reflects where Democrats see their best chance of flipping seats — is the latest datapoint showing the challenging political landscape the party faces in the crucial 2022 midterms.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Evergrande's reassuring default

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

It's not a Lehman moment but it's still a very big deal. Chinese construction giant Evergrande looks set to default on its $300 billion of liabilities, in a move that has already had global market repercussions.

Why it matters: Evergrande is the first big test of the global financial system — and especially the Chinese financial system — since the pandemic-induced chaos of March 2020, when central banks around the world were forced to take unprecedented measures to prevent total collapse. So far, world markets seem to be coping just fine.