US military personnel across the globe are recovering from a “fake news” hangover after mass panic broke out over a policy concerning the birth of American “military brats” overseas.
The hysteria San Francisco Chronicle employee Tal Kopan reported (via Twitter) that a new policy update from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) meant that children born to US service members stationed outside the United States would not automatically be considered US citizens.
Today USCIS issued guidance that DHS "no longer considers children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members residing outside the United States as 'residing in the United States' for purposes of acquiring citizenship” —https://t.co/IRNR21Qm4P
— Tal Kopan (@TalKopan) August 28, 2019
The information was offered in a misleading manner that did not at all reflect the actual policy- but that did not stop several news outlets, including Task & Purpose and NBC News, from picking up the story and running with it.
Interestingly enough, other individuals, such as MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin, also spread the information around the same time.
Children born to U.S. service members and government employees overseas will no longer be automatically considered citizens of the United States, according to policy alert issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. https://t.co/Ot0WaGj8Jd
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 28, 2019
The misinformation soon spread among military personnel, creating a cycle of fear and confusion that proved to be a headache for many leaders.
“The past twenty-four hours or so were complete chaos,” one Army officer leading an overseas-based infantry company told Popular Military. “I had to stop a young Soldier from trying to fly his wife back to California so she could have their baby.”
The officer -who asked that his identity be withheld to protect his career- reported that several individuals in pay grades below and above his own were confused by the news, and that it took scanning through the actual policy to straighten things out.
“By the time we figured things out, it was already too late,” he said. “The ‘fake news,’ if you will, had been spread to the point where I’m just going to go over it with my troops on Friday.”
The officer noted that he was not looking at the matter from a political standpoint -as many news outlets named President Donald Trump’s administration as the masterminds behind the policy- but was forced to frame the matter as one of vindictive media outlets looking to sew discord.
“It really seems like [media] will do anything to make the Commander In Chief look bad,” he said. “I get that its part of ‘the game’ and politics, but it’s a real problem when you have Soldiers coming to you in a panic over a non-issue.”
Other senior leaders -both in the officer and enlisted ranks- have reported similar woes, both overseas and stateside.
“You should go onto a spouse Facebook page and see the freakouts,” one Navy officer told CNN.
NBC News national security reporter and NBC News Investigative Unit member Ken Dilanian, who previously discussed the matter over social media, gave a public statement on Twitter concerning his part in disseminating misinformation.
Correction: Experts who have looked at new USCIS policy say it applies if a service member adopts a child overseas, but children born to service members on deployment would still automatically get citizenship. I deleted tweets with the incorrect info. https://t.co/xeu8I3zrkJ
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) August 28, 2019
“I deleted tweets with the incorrect info,” he tweeted.
Task & Purpose also made corrections to the story, later emphasizing that the new rule would only affect a very small number of individuals, such as children born overseas to servicemembers serving on green cards or adopted children.
T&P’s editor was quick to note, however, that the information was incorrect from the source- that source being a statement from the USCIS.
“This story has been updated with additional clarification on the policy and exactly which service members it affects, as well as a statement from the acting director of USCIS,” the footnote read. “It has been changed to reflect that “some” US service members, not “all,” would be affected by the policy change, which was not accurately reflected in the original statement emailed by a USCIS spokeswoman.”
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