Soldier Becomes Citizen
But U.S. plans to send his parents back to Mexico
Melanthia Mitchell, Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, Feb. 12
SEATTLE--A Mexican who joined the U.S. Army and fought in Iraq after buying a fake green card for $50 passed a civics and history test Wednesday, clearing the way for him to become an American citizen.
Pfc. Juan Escalante, 19, was sworn in that afternoon.
The Army normally requires that any illegal immigrants who get caught after fraudulently enlisting be discharged. Once discharged, they may be deported.
But the military helped Escalante pursue citizenship, arguing that he was a valuable soldier who would do the country more good as a citizen than as a deported immigrant.
However, authorities still plan to deport his parents. Escalante’s attorney said he will appeal that decision.
There are 37,401 non-citizens in the active-duty military, and about 3,000 served in the war in Iraq. It is not known how many are illegal immigrants.
President Bush signed an executive order in 2002 speeding the citizenship process for active-duty personnel. The order helped Escalante avoid the long process of obtaining a green card before seeking citizenship.
Escalante was 4 when he crossed illegally into the United States with his mother. He grew up in Seattle and signed a 4-year contract with the Army after graduating from high school in 2002.
He served as a mechanic in Kuwait and Iraq for four months as a member of the 1st Brigade of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, which launched the ground invasion that began the war.
His parents have lived in the United States for 15 years and have two younger U.S.-born children, ages 10 and 12. An immigration judge said the couple failed to show that being sent back to Mexico would cause exceptional hardship to their younger children.
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