A 100 foreign-born members of the U.S. military earned American citizenship by dying in Iraq. As the war continues, more and more immigrants are becoming citizens in death — and more and more families are grappling with deeply conflicting feelings about exactly what the honor means. (From this article )
Jose Gutierrez , a young ambitious immigrant from Guatemala who dreamed of becoming an architect. In death, the young Marine was showered with honors his family could only have dreamed of in life. His sister was flown in from Guatemala for his memorial service, where a Roman Catholic cardinal presided and top military officials saluted his flag-draped coffin. And yet, his foster mother agonized as she accompanied his body back for burial in Guatemala City: Why did Jose have to die for America in order to truly belong?
As Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who oversaw Gutierrez's service, put it .
"There is something terribly wrong with our immigration policies if it takes death on the battlefield in order to earn citizenship," Mahony wrote to President Bush in April 2003. He urged the president to grant immediate citizenship to all immigrants who sign up for military service in wartime."They should not have to wait until they are brought home in a casket,"
Cpl. Juan Alcantara, a native of the Dominican Republic, was killed Aug. 6, 2007. Buried by a cardinal and eulogized by a congressman .
"What use is a piece of paper?" cried Fredelinda Pena , his sister ."He can't take the oath from a coffin," she sobbed.
Smuggled across the Mexican border in his mother's arms when he was 2 months old, Jose Garibay was just 21 when he died in Nasiriyah. The Costa Mesa police department made him an honorary police officer, something he had hoped one day to become. America made him a citizen. His mother, Simona Garibay, couldn't conceal her bewilderment and pain. It seemed, she said in interviews after the funeral, that more value was being placed on her son's death than on his life.
"Immigrants are lured into service and then used as political pawns or cannon fodder," said Dan Kesselbrenner, executive director of the National Immigration Project, a program of the National Lawyers Guild. "It is sad thing to see people so desperate to get status in this country that they are prepared to die for it."
Nearly 37,000 soldiers have been naturalized. And 109 who lost their lives have been granted posthumous citizenship.The right to become an American is not automatic for those who die in combat. Families must formally apply for citizenship within two years of the soldier's death, and not all choose to do so.
"What good would it do?" Saveria Romeo says of her son, Army Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Romeo, who was born in Calabria, died in Iraq "It won't bring back my son."
Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez Del Solar was 20 when he was killed by a bomb . His father has become an outspoken peace activist who travels the country organizing anti-war marches, giving speeches and working with counter-recruitment groups to dissuade young Latinos from joining the U.S. military.