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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Dear Editor:
The following press release was submitted by National Immigration Forum.

On Memorial Day, we honored the men and women who have served in our country’s armed forces in previous wars and the most recent conflict in Iraq. The fact that so many military enlistees are immigrant Americans demonstrates the love they have for their adopted homeland. It endorses our country’s openness to new people, and affirms our success in turning newcomers into "new Americans." Born in places as diverse as Egypt, Colombia, Guyana, Scotland, and the Philippines, foreign-born soldiers are making their mark in the U.S. military. More than 60,000 immigrants are currently on active duty, with a little more than half of them not yet citizens. Over 20% of all Medal of Honor recipients (716 of 3,406 total) were immigrants, and immigrants were (and continue to be) among the casualties and prisoners in the most recent war in Iraq. By making the ultimate sacrifice in the name of the United States, immigrants prove beyond a doubt that they believe in and support the ideals of this great country. President Bush and members of both parties in Congress have sought to recognize the contributions of immigrant servicemen and women by making U.S. citizenship a more attainable, and less costly, goal. The President’s Executive Order 329, issued in July 2002, removes the three-year wait period for non-citizens in the military who want to become U.S. citizens. However, this order is limited to the time in which the U.S. is engaged in "the war against terrorists of global reach." In the Congress, Representative Martin Frost (D-24th/TX) has led the charge to ease the path to citizenship for immigrant soldiers, introducing bills in both the 107th and 108th Congresses that address this issue. Several other members of Congress in both chambers have also offered their own proposals. A hybrid, bi-partisan bill now moving through the House (H.R. 1954)—sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-5th/WI) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-14th/MI), among others—would permanently cut the three-year wait period to one year, waive application fees, make the entire process accessible for people who are serving overseas, and clear up a technical barrier faced by non-citizen relatives of soldiers who die in the line of duty. Under current law, even immediate family members lose access to permanent residency if the family member who would sponsor them dies. This is a horrific situation, particularly in the wake of such a tragedy as losing a loved one in a military conflict, and must be remedied. Given the incredible faith, loyalty, and sacrifice immigrant soldiers have exhibited, passing such a measure is wholly consistent with American values. This bill rewards the type of citizens we are proud to have call themselves "Americans." Congress should move quickly to enact this bill.

Lynn Tramonte
National Immigration Forum



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