The growing ranks of legal permanent residents in our armed forces build on a rich legacy of military service from America’s immigrants. It reflects the tremendous pride and patriotism of our immigrant communities, particularly among Hispanic immigrants.
But right now, U.S. immigration law erects unnecessary and unfair hurdles for these green card troops who want to become citizens in the nation they defend.
Typically, they are among the lowest in pay and in rank, but the naturalization process can cost them thousands of dollars in fees and out-of-pocket travel expenses. And if they’re serving overseas – as many are – the law makes the process even more difficult by requiring legal immigrant servicemen and women to schedule interviews at local INS offices in the U.S. – and to pay their own travel expenses to get here.
Last year, President Bush signed an Executive Order making non-citizens who had been on active duty since September 11th immediately eligible for citizenship. But this does not remove any of the barriers to actually getting citizenship, and it lacks the permanence of statutory law.
That’s why the “Citizenship for America’s Troops Act” is still needed. It waives naturalization fees for green card troops, and allows immigration officials to conduct interviews at consulates, embassies and overseas military installations. It also decreases the service requirement to qualify for citizenship from three to two years.
Sounds good to me.