FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jessica Gleason
April 10, 2003
Hastings Bill Would Make Soldiers Citizens
Washington, D.C. - Congressman Doc Hastings (WA-4) believes legal immigrants serving on active duty in America's armed forces should be made immediately eligible for U.S. citizenship.
"America is a nation whose very existence was first forged by brave immigrants willing to take up arms in the defense of freedom. That was true in the Revolutionary War, it was true in the Civil War as well as all subsequent wars, and it's equally true today," said Hastings (R-WA) who introduced legislation today to waive multi-year waiting periods set in current law for legal immigrants seeking to become naturalized citizens.
Under Hastings' proposal, legal immigrants in uniform who otherwise meet all current requirements could immediately be administered the oath of citizenship, whether serving in the United States or overseas. In addition, legal immigrants enlisting in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard could be sworn in as citizens on the same day they enter active duty.
According to the Department of Defense, an estimated 37,000 legal permanent residents are currently serving on active duty in our armed forces. "These young men and women not only desire to become U.S. citizens," Hastings said, "but they have voluntarily taken on one of the most solemn duties any nation can ask of its people. Although not born on American soil, they have more than earned the right to become citizens of the nation they serve to protect," he continued.
By eliminating 3-5 year residency requirements, waiving naturalization fees and enabling servicemen and women to be sworn in as citizens overseas, Hastings' bill eliminates legal barriers to citizenship long faced by legal permanent residents serving in the armed forces. Hastings' bill would revoke citizenship obtained by this means in the event an individual is discharged from service under other than honorable conditions.
Other than waiving required waiting periods, Hastings' proposal would leave in place all existing conditions for citizenship, which require candidates to: 1) be of good moral character, 2) commit themselves to the principles of the Constitution, 3) demonstrate the ability to read, write, speak and understand English, and 4) pass a test on U.S. government and history.
Hastings said he is hopeful that his bill will receive bipartisan support and be considered when the House of Representatives reconvenes in late April.
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