12/17/2012 08:56:44 AM EST
Immigrant Marine in Life, U.S. Citizen in Death
"Marine Cpl. Roberto Cazarez applied for U.S. citizenship shortly before he deployed for combat duty in Afghanistan. The expedited process allows enlistees who are permanent legal residents, like Cazarez was, to go to the head of the line for citizenship. Cazarez's application was pending at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services when he was killed by a roadside bomb blast in March, just weeks before his battalion was due to return to Camp Pendleton. On Thursday, in a short but emotional ceremony, Cazarez's widow was presented with a certificate indicating that her husband had been posthumously awarded his U.S. citizenship, retroactive to the day that he was killed. Cazarez, who was 24 when he died, is the 144th military service member to be posthumously awarded citizenship since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — more than in any other period of U.S. combat, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. ... Cazarez came to the United States from the Mexican state of Sinaloa as a child. A permanent legal resident, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006, days after graduating from high school in Harbor City. He was on his second enlistment, his first combat tour. "He came here as a baby and knew very little about Mexico; he always considered himself an American," Sonia Cazarez said. "That's why this is so special." In the months after Sept. 11, as U.S. involvement in Afghanistan escalated, President George W. Bush signed an executive order declaring that a "time of conflict" existed, allowing him to authorize the expedited citizenship process for service members. Since then, more than 83,000 military personnel have become U.S. citizens, more than 10,000 of them while stationed overseas. To enlist in the military, someone must already be a permanent legal resident of the United States. When the expedited citizenship process is in effect, the three- or five-year waiting period for citizenship is waived for military personnel." - L.A. Times, Dec. 7, 2012.