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  KD MAGAZINE!                    ב"ה   
 
 
     
 

The Battle for Citizenship
By Rabbi Shea Hecht

"If what I've done for this country isn't enough for me to be a citizen, then I don't know what is."

These are the words of Abdool Habibullah, 27, a Guyanese immigrant who first applied for citizenship in 2005 upon returning from a tour as a sergeant in Iraq.

Habibullah's words highlight an interesting issue that I read about this past week: The ugly battle that soldiers have to fight to become American citizens after they come back from war.

Despite an effort by President Bush to speed up citizenship applications from immigrant members of the USA military, some immigrant soldiers are waiting for months, or even years, because of bureaucratic backlog.

There are many sad and frustrating stories with people in the service trying to gain American citizenship. Army Sergeant Kendell K. Frederick, 21-year-old immigrant from Trinidad, attempted to become an American citizen before he was ultimately murdered in Iraq. Kendell tried to file for citizenship three times and as he returned from submitting fingerprints for his application on October 19, 2005, near his base in Tikrit, his convoy hit a roadside bomb killing him.

While it's true that the long waits are part of a greater problem affecting the immigration service, which was flooded with more than two million applications for citizenship and visas last summer, President Bush signed an executive order allowing service members and veterans to go to the head of the line.

Yet despite this, there is still a problem with servicemen getting their papers. David E. Piver, a Pennsylvania lawyer who filed at least six petitions in federal court over the past five years on behalf of service members experiencing longer than usual delays on their citizenship applications, said, "It's usually not any substantive issue that's causing those delays. What it boils down to are bureaucratic snafus."

I would think that serving in the armed forces in any capacity is a tremendous sacrifice, one of the greatest that a man or woman can make for this country,
especially at this time when there is no draft in the USA. All the members of our armed forces chose to join the military to serve and protect our country.  If we want our armed forces to grow and flourish we have to give people an incentive to join.

The incentive doesn't have to be direct. The respect that our service men and women get is also an incentive. By showing those who serve in the armed forces the respect they deserve we are sending the message that we know they are making a sacrifice, but it is appreciated. As a country we must show at least the minimum support to those who risk their lives to protect and defend our country.

How can we justify the bureaucratic disorder and confusion that keeps those who put their lives on the line for our country from becoming citizens of the country they are fighting to protect and defend?

Men and women who love this country so much that they are willing to give their live to defend it have passed the greatest test of loyalty to our country. Joining the armed forces should be passage for citizenship.

I guess Abdool Habibullah said it best, "If what I've done for this country isn't enough for me to be a citizen, then I don't know what is."
 

 

***

Rabbi Shea Hecht's website: www.sheahecht.com


 

 
   
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