LA Cardinal Urges Citizenship for Immigrant Troops
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony made the proposal in a letter sent on
Tuesday to the White House, one day after he
officiated at a funeral mass for of Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, a Guatemalan immigrant and one of the first combat casualties of the
U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Gutierrez, 28, who died just hours after U.S. ground troops moved into
southern Iraq on March 21, was granted posthumous
citizenship along with two other soldiers who died in battle.
In a letter faxed to the White House, the cardinal asked Bush to grant
U.S. citizenship to non-native members of the U.S. Armed
Services upon their honorable discharge -- rather than wait several years after they applied.
"There is something terribly wrong with our immigration policies if it
takes death on the battlefield to earn citizenship," Mahony wrote.
"It seems to me and to many others that the very least we can do to assist our immigrant men and women serving the best interest of
this great nation is to grant them citizenship without bureaucratic obstacles and delays.
White House officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Immigrants must live in the United States for at least five years before
they are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, a spokesman
for the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services said. The ensuing qualification process can take years to complete.
In a 2002 executive order, Bush agreed to expedite the naturalization process
for non-citizen soldiers who serve "during ... the war
against terrorists of global reach."
About 37,000 non-citizens, who hold permanent residency papers popularly
known as "green cards," now serve in the U.S.