"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
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
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."