From the Office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
 

Democrats Support Naturalizing Non-Citizen Soldiers

September 23, 2003

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi today commended Reps. Ciro Rodríguez (D-TX), Hilda Solís (D-CA), Martin Frost (D-TX) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for introducing a motion that would expedite the naturalization process for non-citizen soldiers and provide immigration benefits for family members of soldiers killed in combat. Today, the House approved the Rodríguez motion by a vote of 298 to 118, instructing House and Senate conferees drafting this year's Department of Defense authorization bill to enact the citizenship provisions into law.

"These non-citizens soldiers love America so much that they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect us and promote our values and defend our Constitution," said Pelosi. "In return, we have a responsibility to make sure that immigrant soldiers who defend our country are recognized for their contributions and valor, and that their families are also protected and naturalized."

In July, the House-passed authorization bill did not include provisions regarding naturalization for non-citizen soldiers. The Rodríguez motion instructs House and Senate conferees to correct that omission by keeping Senate language addressing this issue. The language in the Senate version also provides immigration protections for family members of soldiers killed in action and aids the naturalization process for active duty reservists.

"Right now, 37,000 immigrants are serving our country’s Armed Forces, including more than 5,000 currently serving in Iraq," said Rep. Rodríguez, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. "These brave soldiers, in order to enlist, have already met the same rigorous evaluation as U.S. citizens. But beyond simply meeting the qualifications for military service, non-citizen soldiers have passed an even more important test -- they have proven their loyalty to the United States by pledging to defend our nation and our values with their bodies, their minds, and their lives.

"I am pleased that my colleagues chose to join with me in supporting this small token of gratitude as a demonstration to the 37,000 brave immigrant soldiers that we appreciate their patriotism to the United States," he added.

"Far too many military members have died defending a country they couldn't officially call their own," said Rep. Solís. "I am pleased that the House has recognized the urgency in removing the barriers that delay citizenship for the heroes protecting our homeland and preserving our freedoms."

It is estimated that two million Hispanics have served with distinction in the armed forces, including 37,000 lawful permanent residents currently serving today. They are among the most highly decorated soldiers in U.S. military. Approximately 20 percent of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients have been immigrants.


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