US Naturalizes More Immigrant Soldiers

The latest naturalization ceremony included several immigrants who fast-tracked the process by fighting with the US army in a "time of war," bringing the total number of such cases to 32,500 since the 2003 Iraq invasion.

US Naturalizes More Immigrant Soldiers
You are part of the most exclusive club in the world," Emilio Gonzalez, Director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), told the new batch of Americans on Tuesday, July 25, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).

"You've accepted to defend the principles of the greatest country in the world," added Gonzalez, himself a naturalized American.

Of those naturalized Tuesday there were 25 soldiers from 14 nations.

Bayando Andino, originally from Nicaragua, said he has obtained his US nationality in less than four months.

Javier Tegada, a 32-year-old native of Colombia, said he arrived in the US four years ago.

But he obtained the citizenship only six months after joining the army.

US armed forces allow foreigners into their ranks only when they hold US residency, which allows them to work legally in the United States.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US has naturalized 32,500 immigrant soldiers, according to AFP.


Normally, a non-US citizen who obtains residency must wait five years before beginning the paperwork for US citizenship.

And in the armed forces that wait had been cut to three years.

But under a decree signed by President George W. Bush in 2003 a soldier with US residency can request US citizenship starting his first day on active duty.

The executive order allowed thousands of armed forces members on active-duty to apply for citizenship immediately.

At the time of the 2003 Iraq invasion there were as many as 15,000 US residents, not citizens, fighting in Iraq.

According to Pentagon, 31,044 residents were on active duty in the armed forces in April 2003, most of them Latin American-born servicemen in the Marines and Navy.

Of the first US soldiers who died in combat, one was Guatemalan and two Mexican.

When the Iraq war began, the US embassy in Mexico received hundreds of calls from Mexicans who said they were willing to fight in Iraq in exchange for citizenship.

The US Army has been slipping further behind its recruiting goals over the past years.

According to Army records, prosecution for absence without leave or failing to appear for unit missions has more than doubled since 2002.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Temmuz 2007, 13:30