Federal Litigation Removes Barriers to Naturalization for Thousands Of US Army Soldiers

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Recently, our litigation team secured another victory in a string of federal court cases against the US government, including three class actions, on behalf of thousands of non-citizen US Army soldiers and veterans seeking to secure their lawful right to US citizenship based on their military service.

We represented US Army enlistees through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program who were recruited due to their essential language or medical skills and promised in exchange an expedited path to naturalization. Our clients were victims of a concerted campaign by the US Department of Defense (DOD), the US Army, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to delay and ultimately deny them citizenship through unlawful policies and practices that left them and their families in immigration limbo and subject to removal (and, for some, persecution elsewhere for having sworn their allegiance to the United States).

In the first set of cases, the team overcame government litigation tactics designed to preclude judicial review and prevent relief, including implementing new unlawful policies, raising unfounded “national security” claims, and making multiple attempts to prevent class certification and then to decertify the classes. Ultimately, our team secured complete victories, including a permanent injunction and summary judgment against the DOD and the DHS, which resulted in the naturalization of more than 2,000 class members.

In another case, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) ultimately capitulated and changed its policy in accordance with our litigation position. Further, in the most recent class action, our litigators negotiated a creative and unprecedented settlement with the US Army that is enabling hundreds more MAVNI soldiers and veterans to obtain the certifications of military service necessary to obtain naturalization and which resulted in USCIS again changing a policy to match our litigation position.

In a further salute to the (MAVNI soldiers and veterans, Morgan Lewis is funding a two-year, full-time legal fellowship with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) to help guide hundreds of noncitizen soldiers and veterans through the naturalization process.

For its efforts, the firm was recognized by Financial Times with The Access to Justice & Civil Rights Award as part of the FT Innovative Lawyers North America contest and as a Pro Bono Innovator by Bloomberg Law.