House Clears Streamlined Path to Citizenship for Foreigners in U.S. Military - Southern Maryland Headline News

House Clears Streamlined Path to Citizenship for Foreigners in U.S. Military

Mikulski Introduces Bill in Senate

By ANJU KAUR, Capital News Service

WASHINGTON (November 7, 2007) - The House passed legislation Tuesday that would make it easier for immigrants serving in the military to become American citizens.

Named for a 21-year-old Randallstown man who died in Iraq in October 2005, the Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act, H.R. 2884, will streamline the fingerprinting process so that service members can use prints taken at time of enlistment for their naturalization application.

Frederick, a Trinidad native, served in the military for eight years and was stationed in Iraq when he decided to apply for citizenship. Because of outdated information and miscommunication, his application was delayed multiple times for more than a year. Then there was a problem processing his fingerprints. He was traveling with a convoy to a base in Baghdad to have his fingerprints retaken when he was killed by a roadside bomb.

There are more than 45,000 foreign nationals serving in the U.S. military.

"When non-citizens embrace our nation by risking their lives to protect it, the least we can do is provide a smooth and easy transition to citizenship," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, who introduced the bill.

The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security, where citizenship applications are processed, to accept military applicant fingerprints taken by the Department of Defense during enlistment. Right now, DHS only accepts fingerprints recorded by its own personnel, a House staffer said.

Both departments also must develop a uniform fingerprinting standard to expedite the process.

DHS will be required to update the naturalization applications, supporting materials and other citizenship information on its Web site.

Cummings said he will work with his "Senate counterparts" to pass the bill.

The legislation was introduced in the upper chamber by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., in 2005 as part of the immigration bill. Although it stalled in the Senate in June, Mikulski was successful last year in having DHS create a dedicated customer service hotline for service members applying for citizenship.

"Even though we have worked for an administrative fix, Senator Mikulski will continue to work for passage of this important legislation," said Melissa Schwartz, Mikulski's communications director.

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