Monday, April 26, 2010

Tough Luck

This article in today's Los Angeles Times really infuriated me. After serving six years in the military, more than a year of which was in Iraq, Ekaterine Bautista is being denied citizenship and fears being deported, all for being an undocumented immigrant.

Ms. Bautista was brought to this country as a teenager, but after 9/11 she answered the call and tried to enlist. Recruiting officers told her that without proof of American citizenship or a green card, she was ineligible. Disappointed, she asked for and received permission to use the name of a relative who was a US citizen and this time the Army took her in.

When the Army discovered the "fraud", she received an honorable discharge,even though fellow soldiers and her superiors felt she was a good soldier and deserved to remain in the service. She admits she made a mistake, but the fact is she served her adopted country bravely and honorably.

An illegal immigrant from Mexico, she had served six years in the U.S. military — including a 13-month tour of duty in Iraq — and was eligible to apply for naturalization under a decades-old law.

But approval of her case depended on the discretion of citizenship officials. Bautista had served in the military under a false identity, that of her U.S. citizen aunt, Rosalia Guerra Morelos.

She passed the civics exam, completed all the paperwork and received a letter telling her to show up at the Los Angeles Convention Center on March 31. Then the call came.

"Yeah, I made a mistake," Bautista, 35, said. "But if you look back at my records, I never did anything wrong in the military. On the contrary."

She served well, receiving a binder-full of commendations for her courage, but now she can't drive, work, or even receive any military benefits for her efforts, and she may even be deported.

She belies the standard rhetoric of the anti-immigrationists. She not only didn't suckle at the teat of social services, she gave back to her adopted country in ways that many of those railing against the "illegals" would never even consider for themselves or their families.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has the discretion to grant citizenship to Ms. Bautista. I hope it uses that discretion in her favor. We could use a few more citizens like Ms. Bautista: courageous, dedicated, honorable.



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