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Bush speeds citizenship for military

From Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush issued an executive order Wednesday, speeding up citizenship proceedings for non-citizens who have been serving in the U.S. military since the September 11 terror attacks.

"It is a reward for their service at a time of war," a senior administration official told CNN.

Such an executive order has not been made since the Persian Gulf War.

Under current immigration law, non-citizens must serve in the U.S. military for three years before they are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. However, during times of war, a president can issue an executive order, allowing non-citizens on active duty to become eligible for citizenship before completing the three-year service, senior administration officials said.

About 30,000 non-citizens have been serving in the military since September 11, and roughly 15,000 of them have been serving for less than three years, a senior administration official said.

The White House highlighted three people who would be eligible for the expedited citizenship: Army Specialist Michelle Pedro, a Guayanan immigrant based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Marine Cpl. Miranda Enriquez, a Mexican immigrant at Camp Pendelton, California; and Lalengbor Okpa of Nigeria, a Navy Aviation Storekeeper 3rd Class on the USS John F. Kennedy.

In his executive order, Bush called for "expedited naturalization for aliens and non-citizen nationals serving in an active-duty status ... during the period of the war against terrorists of global reach."

The president said that war with a "hostile force" began on September 11, 2001, the date of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

The executive order remains in effect until the president terminates it.

Bush is expected to highlight the executive order on the Fourth of July during a visit to Ripley, West Virginia, where he will also salute America's veterans.

Previous executive orders, issued during the Persian Gulf War, the Vietnam War and other wars, allowed some 100,000 non-citizens to become eligible sooner for U.S. citizenship, a senior administration official said.




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