Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Iraq War Veteran Faces Denial of Citizenship Over Fraud

"Ekaterine Bautista, Iraq War Veteran, May Be Denied Citizenship"
By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times

"Just five days before Ekaterine Bautista planned to become an American citizen, she got a call from the federal government: Her swearing-in ceremony had been canceled pending further investigation.

Bautista was devastated. An illegal immigrant from Mexico, she had served six years in the U.S. military -- including a 13-month tour of duty in Iraq -- and was eligible to apply for naturalization under a decades-old law.

But approval of her case depended on the discretion of citizenship officials. Bautista had served in the military under a false identity, that of her U.S. citizen aunt, Rosalia Guerra Morelos.

She passed the civics exam, completed all the paperwork and received a letter telling her to show up at the Los Angeles Convention Center on March 31. Then the call came.

"Yeah, I made a mistake," Bautista, 35, said. "But if you look back at my records, I never did anything wrong in the military. On the contrary." ...

Like many other soldiers, Bautista decided to enlist just days after Sept. 11.

"It was a calling," said Bautista, who was a teenager when her mother brought her to the U.S. "I felt the need to join because it was the right thing to do, and also because of my daughter. I had to protect my daughter."

She called an Army recruiting office, but they told her that a Mexican passport wasn't enough and that she had to be a U.S. citizen or a green-card holder to enlist. So she asked her family for permission to use the identity of her aunt, a U.S. citizen who lived in Mexico. With their blessing, Bautista walked into a Montebello recruiting office and introduced herself as Rosalia Guerra Morelos. She presented a driver's license, birth certificate and Social Security number.

As part of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, noncitizens who serve in the military one year during peace time or one day during wartime are eligible to apply for fast-tracked citizenship. In 2002, President George W. Bush issued an executive order and invoked the wartime law as of Sept. 11, 2001.

Between September 2001 and March 2010, more than 58,000 men and women in the armed forces were naturalized, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency doesn't track how many were undocumented.

There have been similar cases to Bautista's, including that of Mexican illegal immigrant Liliana Plata, who bought a stolen Social Security card in Los Angeles so she could join the military and later became a decorated airman serving in Iraq as Cristina Alaniz. She was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 2003 after the real Alaniz discovered her identity had been stolen."

Read the complete article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/26/ekaterine-bautista-iraq-w_n_551806.html

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