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‘Courage to Serve Act’ – Foreigners Joining US Military to Receive Pathway to Citizenship


Congressman Pat Ryan, alongside his West Point classmate Congressman John James (R-MI), introduced the bipartisan “Courage to Serve Act.” The bill creates a pilot program that would provide an expedited path to citizenship for qualified and vetted migrants who serve in the military. The legislation addresses two challenges facing the United States: an influx of migrants looking to work, build a better life for their families, and contribute to our country, as well as a recruitment crisis within the ranks of our Armed Forces.

Congressman Pat Ryan speaking
Congressman Pat Ryan speaking (Photo X/Twitter Pat Rayan)

“I know it firsthand – there’s no higher honor than serving your country in uniform. If folks have the courage to raise their right hand, swear an oath to protect and defend this nation, and put their lives on the line, then they sure as hell deserve the opportunity to become an American citizen,” said Congressman Pat Ryan. 

“Earlier this week, partisan posturing got in the way of passing significant immigration reform. But I’m not giving up the fight. I’ll keep pushing everyday for concrete, practical and actionable measures to secure our border, address critical military recruiting shortfalls, and help immigrants already in this country build a better life for their families. 

“Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed serious threats to national security due to recruiting challenges in the military.

Congressman John James
Congressman John James (Image X/Twitter Congressman John James)

In fact, in 2022, the Army missed its recruiting goal by 25%. To combat this concerning trend, and give heroic and America-loving immigrants a chance to gain citizenship, I am proud to sponsor the Courage to Serve Act,” said Congressman John James. 

“Immigration is both an economic and moral imperative, and giving specific America-loving immigrants who want to serve the country the chance to become citizens is a no-brainer. Some of the heroes Pat and I served with in Iraq were immigrants, and I can’t think of a more deserving person to become an American citizen than immigrants who are willing to serve in our military.” 

The “Courage to Serve Act” creates a pilot program that would allow a qualified and vetted set of migrants to receive an expedited path to citizenship in exchange for military service, provided they:

  • Successfully complete multiple background checks conducted by both USCIS and FBI. 
  • Are admissible to the United States, and;
  • Otherwise eligible for enlistment in the Armed Forces. 

In turn, this legislation offers expedited processing and application assistance to immigrants,  offering a unique solution to two challenges facing the United States: an influx of migrants looking to work, build a better life for their families, and contribute to our country, as well as a recruitment crisis within the ranks of our Armed Forces. Last year alone, the expected recruiting personnel shortfall was 10,000 in the Army, 10,000 in the Air Force, and 6,000 in the Navy. Overall, the DoD acting Undersecretary of Personnel and Readiness said that during fiscal year 2023, the military services collectively missed recruiting goals by roughly 41,000 recruits, leaving critical positions unfilled, putting our nation’s national security at greater risk. 

Congressman Ryan has made repeated calls for comprehensive immigration reform, as well as pushed aggressively for increased border security funding. Only weeks ago, Congressman Ryan signed on to a letter to Speaker Johnson urging him to work in good faith across party lines to pass bipartisan border security and immigration reform. Congressman Ryan is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Dignity Act (H.R.3599) that strengthens border security, invests in border infrastructure, grants legal status to undocumented immigrants already living in the United States with the possibility of earning citizenship, establishes new pathways for asylum seekers, and creates new legal pathways for economic migrants and unaccompanied minors. Far-right House leadership has blocked a vote on the bipartisan Dignity Act since it was introduced in May 2023.

Congressman Ryan pushed for House leadership to vote on and pass President Biden’s $13.6 billion border supplemental that would hire 1,300 new border patrol agents, 1,000 law enforcement personnel, 1,600 asylum officers and 375 immigration judge teams. Republicans continue to block this funding from coming to a vote in the months since its proposal.

While House Republicans have blocked votes on full border security funding and comprehensive immigration reform, Congressman Ryan has built a record of calling for and working towards solutions, including calling for streamlining the process of granting asylees work authorization and calling extensively for and helping secure Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans, the largest population of migrants coming to New York City, so they could immediately gain work authorization. Ryan cosponsors legislation to improve U.S. Customs and Border patrol hiring and employee retention.

Congressman Ryan has also fought for increased measures to combat the flow of illicit fentanyl into the United States across the southern border, including making repeated calls for increased funding and cosponsoring the END FENTANYL Act to improve Customs and Border Protection’s ability to crackdown on illicit fentanyl trafficking.

When governors from southern border states began transporting migrants to New York State in the summer of 2023, overwhelming the state’s available resources, Congressman Ryan immediately led a bipartisan letter with Congressman Mike Lawler calling for President Biden to approve New York’s request for a major disaster declaration to usher in additional federal resources.


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