WASHINGTON, DC House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez today joined Representatives Hilda Solis (D-CA), Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Lane Evans (D-IL), ranking Democrat on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX), ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee, to applaud the passage of the Fiscal Year 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, HR 1588, which included provisions recognizing the contributions of non-citizens in our military. The National Defense Authorization Act removes government red tape and barriers to the U.S. citizenship application process. Menendez made the following statement:
“Today is not only a victory for thousands of brave and selfless heroes serving in our Armed Forces, who are risking, and often losing, their lives on behalf of a country they chose to adopt; it is also a victory for the morale of our Armed Forces the passage of today’s bill brings fairness and equality to a system that too often took advantage of non-citizens’ willingness to serve in the military, only to face bureaucratic barriers in their applications for U.S. citizenship.
“Among the first American soldiers to be killed in action in Iraq was Marine Lance Cpl Jose Gutierrez of Guatemala, who was neither a permanent resident nor a citizen. According to his foster mother, he joined the Marines in March 2002, because ‘he wanted to give back a little to his adopted country.’
“With today’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, we are finally giving back to those courageous individuals, like Jose Gutierrez, who have risked so much, made the ultimate sacrifice, and have honored our nation with their dedicated service. We are proud to be a land of immigrants, and today’s bill could not have passed at a better time, with Veterans Day less than a week away.
“These men and women deserve our respect and appreciation, and, today, we are proud to stand with them shoulder-to-shoulder, as we embark on a new century of inclusion and fairness.”