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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Citizenship and Military Service

In our book, we note the longstanding connection between citizenship and military service. A controversial memo (see Friday post) by US Citizenship and Immigration Services has at least one provision that enjoys bipartisan support because of this connection. The New York Times reports:

According to the memo, one of those changes has been quietly put into practice since May. The new policy allows illegal immigrants who are spouses, parents and children of American citizens serving in the military to complete the process of becoming legal residents without having to leave the United States — a procedure that is known in immigration law terms as granting parole. The memo says agency officials approved the new parole approach “to preserve family unity and address Department of Defense concerns regarding soldier safety and readiness for duty.”

In a letter on July 9, 18 members of the House, including nine Republicans, urged Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to make broader use of that measure and several others to “provide some relief” to active-duty soldiers with close relatives who did not have legal immigration status. The measures the lawmakers advocated are also proposed in the immigration agency’s memo, including the broader use of “deferred action,” a power that allows immigration authorities to cancel deportations.

Among the Republicans signing the letter were Representatives William M. Thornberry of Texas and Representative Michael R. Turner of Ohio, both members of the House Armed Services Committee, as well as Representatives Mike Pence of Indiana and Sam Johnson of Texas. Mr. Turner and Mr. Johnson are staunch opponents of amnesty for illegal immigrants. The letter was also signed by Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, the Democrat who is chairwoman of the House immigration subcommittee.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Silvio Laccetti offers historical context:

Roman ideals shaped our Founding Fathers' thinking on citizenship. To understand the value of the status in ancient Rome, one need only look to the experience of the apostle Paul. Arrested on arrival in Jerusalem for his preachings, Paul would have been condemned to death if tried there. But because he was a Roman citizen, he was able to appeal to Caesar and be tried in Rome.

A common Roman practice continued in modern times is the granting of citizenship to those who serve in the military. Those visiting the National Constitution Center's "Ancient Rome & America" exhibition, which closes after this weekend, learned about Infante Veneto, who was given full rights of citizenship upon his military discharge in A.D. 93. His documentation is on display next to that of Thomas Lomax, an American who obtained citizenship after one year of residency and one year of military service in 1864.

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