Monday, March 24, 2008

Family Citizenship by Military Service

The Associated Press has a new story on more than 100 soldiers who are awarded citizenship posthumously. The story focuses on their families' ambivalence in dealing with this sad achievement. passed the story on as part of their criticism of the war.

Yet as I read the story, this is one area in which the Iraq war has actually made things better. The AP reports that there are tens of thousands of "green card soldiers" in the U.S. Armed Forces. They get U.S. citizenship in exchange for their service.

At the start of the war, these servicemen and women would only be awarded citizenship when their service ended. For the families of those who died, this was particularly bittersweet. In response to criticism, though, Pres. Bush changed the rule to allow citizenship to those who applied for it on enlistment. Since then 37,000 soldiers have been naturalized. Another 20,000 foreign nationals serve in the U.S. military who have either not applied for citizenship or not completed the paperwork.

Another important change is that the relatives of dead soldiers who are awarded citizenship posthumously have the same advantages in coming to the U.S. legally that the relatives of living citizens do. This ended the Catch-22 in which the relatives of naturalized soldiers could get on the fast track to citizenship only if the soldier survived the war.

The United States has always offered immigrants military service as the fast way to citizenship. This seems to me a good and just thing. And these improvements in the path of naturalized soldiers seems to me a silver lining of this bad war -- even for the families of the dead.

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