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Latino Daily News

Friday February 11, 2011

After 10 Years in Active Duty- Soldier Applies for Citizenship

After 10 years in the US Army, having served in Afghanistan and Iraq, receiving medals and acolytes from superiors, Staff Sergeant Luis Lopez was discharged from the army in late December. Why? He applied for US Citizenship. Mr. Lopez’s case points out a contradiction in the participation in the armed services for undocumented soldiers.

Illegal Immigrants are not allowed to voluntarily enlist for active duty.  However, if one finds a way past the gatekeepers, there is a section of the section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act provides them a path to citizenship.

The 1952 immigration law says foreign nationals who have “served honorably” during wartime may be naturalized “whether or not [they have been] lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence.”

The 1952 law has allowed some illegal immigrants in the military to become U.S. citizens, though how many isn’t clear. But citizenship is not guaranteed. Decisions are made deep in the administration.

Between September 2001 and September 2010, 64,643 members of the armed forces were naturalized by the agency, no detail on how many of those people were in the US Illegally.

Mr. Lopez heard nothing about his application for citizenship until about 10 days after The Wall Street Journal put questions to immigration authorities. Late Thursday, his lawyer, Neil O’Donnell, received word that Mr. Lopez would be granted citizenship. He took part in a naturalization ceremony Wednesday.


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