Sunday, February 24, 2008

Supporting the Troops - The Bush Version

There never seems to be an end to this or that administration official crowing about their admiration and support for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reminders time and time again from conservatives & Republicans that the rest of us want to "help the terrorists" by trying to end the war, or demand a continuation of our constitutional rights. So when non-citizen soldiers heard that the administration promised to fast track their road to citizenship, they believed them.

Well, what do you expect, they're not citizens yet, so they're not used to the Bush administration's consistent policy of screwing over any and all citizens they can. Today's NYTimes, taking a bit of a break from fist-a-cuffs with McCain, looks at the long, long, long, long, long wait for citizenship that those soldiers are experiencing.
One, Sgt. Kendell K. Frederick of the Army, who had tried three times to file for citizenship, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq as he returned from submitting fingerprints for his application.

About 7,200 service members or people who have been recently discharged have citizenship applications pending, but neither the Department of Defense nor Citizenship and Immigration Services keeps track of how long they have been waiting. Immigration lawyers and politicians say they have received a significant number of complaints about delays because of background checks, misplaced paperwork, confusion about deployments and other problems.

“I’ve pretty much given up on finding out where my paperwork is, what’s gone wrong, what happened to it,” said Abdool Habibullah, 27, a Guyanese immigrant who first applied for citizenship in 2005 upon returning from a tour in Iraq and was honorably discharged from the Marines as a sergeant. “If what I’ve done for this country isn’t enough for me to be a citizen, then I don’t know what is.” . . .

But service members and veterans are supposed to go to the head of the line. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush signed an executive order allowing noncitizens on active duty to file for citizenship right away, instead of having to first complete three years in the military. The federal government has since taken several steps to speed up the process, including training military officers to help service members fill out forms, assigning special teams to handle the paperwork, and allowing citizenship tests, interviews and ceremonies to take place overseas.

At the same time, post-9/11 security measures, including tougher guidelines for background checks that are part of the naturalization process, have slowed things down.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which checks the names of citizenship applicants against those in its more than 86 million investigative files, has been overwhelmed, handling an average of 90,000 name-check requests a week. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the F.B.I. was asked to check 4.1 million names, at least half of them for citizenship and green card applicants, a spokesman said.

“Most soldiers clear the checks within 30 to 60 days, or 60 to 90 days,” said Leslie B. Lord, the Army’s liaison to Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that processes citizenship applications. “But even the soldier with the cleanest of records, if he has a name that’s very similar to one that’s in the F.B.I. bad-boy and bad-girl list, things get delayed.”

Such explanations are why Mr. Habibullah has decided that once he does become a citizen — if he ever becomes a citizen — he will change his name.

“I figured that’s part of the reason things got delayed,” he said. “You know, that I have a Muslim name.”

Nah, that can't have anything to do with it. And I'm sure that our soldier citizens-in-waiting with Latin surnames would agree. It's just the luck of the draw. The article goes on to look at examples of soldiers who can't make appointments or file paperwork because they are IN IRAQ at the time.


Blogger Carol Gee said...

Heart wrenching post that reinforces that there are many parts of our "security?" system that are truly broken. Good work.

6:47 AM  
Blogger TomCat said...

Bush/GOP-speak Dictionary
Support Troops=Use as cannon fodder until dead or severely wounded; then discard.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ahh yes, just a couple of months after this article was posted in the NY times I became a US citizen..BUT ..if I didn't get it out in the open I'd still be waiting. It's good to see so many people supporting the troops..I as well as my fellow veterans thank you.

Abdool Habibullah

By the way, I DID change my name after becoming a US citizen..not telling you to what

drop me a line if you feel like it.

Abdool Habibullah

10:28 AM  

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