by Nakia Herring
Bill awaits signature of President Bush
On March 17, 2008, foreign-born members of the U.S. armed forces were awarded the right to become citizens of the United States, with the passage of S 2516-better known as the Kendell Frederick Citizenship Act-which was approved unanimously by the Senate. The bill will assist foreign-born members of the armed forces in obtaining United States citizenship. The bill, introduced by Congressman Elijah Cummings, passed in the House on November 6, 2007. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski later introduced it in the Senate.
Kendell Frederick, 21, was an Army Reserve Specialist., born in Trinidad, but a resident of Randallstown, Maryland during his death in Tikrit, Iraq on October 19, 2005. He was killed while on a convoy on his way to be fingerprinted for his citizenship application.
Michelle Murphy, mother of Kendell, says the passing of the Kendell Frederick Citizenship Act is bittersweet.
“I am elated. For me it is kind of a bittersweet situation. I lost my son, and because of his death, I had to do this because of the circumstances,” says Murphy. “A lot of people did not know that you could be in the military and not be a U.S. citizen. I thought that was something that needed to be fixed.”
Murphy says after her news conference, Senator Mikulski and Congressman Cummings vowed to do everything they could to make the bill become law.
“I can't really thank them enough for helping me pass. I just think that these men and women give their lives for their country, but their not good enough to become an American. It is very hypocritical of the United States government that they sent my son over to Iraq to fight for democracy for Iraqis, and he had to fight and died to become a citizen,” she said.
Murphy says her son's application was sent back to her four times with different problems every time. They even wanted her son to come in for fingerprinting, even though he was in Iraq. “ They had the nerve to ask when will he be able to come in. I did not know the answer to that and neither did my son.”
Now that the Kendell Frederick Citizenship Act has passed, now it waits for President Bush's signature.
“When Senator Mikulski called me last week, I was excited, overwhelmed, and sad all at the same time. Sometimes things have to happen for other things to happen. Unfortunately, my son had to die for this to happen. I try to hold on to maybe this was his reason for being here-to help others from dealing with this back and forth and not knowing,” says Murphy.
It is estimated that over 35,000 non-citizens are currently on active duty in the United States military. In 2002, President Bush signed an executive order that gave active duty members of the military citizenship immediately.