Following up on the story Thursday about the annual naturalization ceremony at Fort Lewis: The military – and in particular, the military during wartime – has long been a path to U.S. citizenship.
The numbers tell the story, as published by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics. (Download Table 20.)
The government first started tracking naturalizations in the military in 1918 – the last year of World War I – when 63,993 service members took the Oath of Allegiance. That was out of a total of 151,449 new citizens that year.
The following year military naturalizations shot up to 128,335 – well over half of the total of 217,358 new citizens that year. The number dropped to 51,972 in 1920 and then sharply after that and special citizenship provisions for those who’d served in uniform ended in 1925.
The next big jump was in World War II. Military naturalizations went from 1,602 in 1942, the year after Pearl Harbor, to 37,474 in 1943, 49,213 in 1944 and 22,695 in 1945. The numbers fell off again to 15,000-16,000 over the next two years and then down some more. They surpassed 2,000 only twice in the next several years.
Until Korea, that is. Naturalizations in the military jumped from 1,575 in 1953 to 13,745 in 1954, the year after the cease-fire, and totaled 11,958 in 1955.
Another plunge followed, with the numbers burbling along at 1,000 and 2,000 until the height of the Vietnam War. They jumped in 1969 to 5,458, and then to 10,616 in 1970, 9,549 in 1971, 8,475 in 1972 and gradually down from there through the early 1980s.
There was another bump, although a modest one, after Desert Storm – military naturalizations went from 1,802 in 1991 to 5,699 in 1992, 7,062 in 1993, 5,890 in 1994 and 3,855 in 1995 before dipping again.
It never got above 1,000 until 2002, but has been on a mostly upward trend since then: 3,865 in 2003, 4,668 in 2004, 4,614 in 2005, 6,259 in 2006 and 3,808 last year.
Wednesday’s 18 new Americans in uniform were just the latest in a long line of men and women who served the country even before it became their own.