Correction to This Article
A May 22 Page One article about service members becoming U.S. citizens, along with its photo captions, misstated the rank of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Johnson.
Three New Americans

First Called to Duty, Then Citizenship

Navy Petty Officer Reginald Cherubin, left, from Haiti, Marine Sgt. Brian Joseph, from St. Vincent, and Army Sgt. Jeremy Tattrie of Canada had been among the more than 40,000 non-citizens in the U.S. military until yesterday, when they became U.S. citizens in a ceremony at Mount Vernon.
Navy Petty Officer Reginald Cherubin, left, from Haiti, Marine Sgt. Brian Joseph, from St. Vincent, and Army Sgt. Jeremy Tattrie of Canada had been among the more than 40,000 non-citizens in the U.S. military until yesterday, when they became U.S. citizens in a ceremony at Mount Vernon. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

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By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

In a crowd of nearly 100 eager faces of newly sworn-in citizens on the grounds of Mount Vernon yesterday, three men in the front row stood out. Their black shoes shone to glossy perfection. Their backs were ramrod straight. One wore the crisp white uniform of the Navy. Another, the drab khaki of the Marines and a third, the dress uniform of the Army. Two had campaign ribbons from serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Until yesterday, the sailor, the Marine and the soldier were among more than 40,000 "green card" service members -- non-citizens serving in the U.S. military. After swearing to defend the Constitution, Petty Officer Reginald Cherubin, 30, Marine Sgt. Brian Joseph, 38, and Army Sgt. Jeremy Tattrie, 24, joined another group: the more than 26,000 service members who have become U.S. citizens since the Iraq war began and the Bush administration expedited the citizenship process for military members. Seventy-five service members have received their citizenship posthumously since then.

It was the sight of Iraqis pulling down Saddam Hussein's statue in 2003 that led Tattrie, a Canadian by birth who was then in college in Florida, to join the military.

"I felt the call to duty," he said, clutching one of the small American flags that immigration officials had just passed out. "I just felt the urge to serve my country." Even though when he enlisted, the United States wasn't, technically, it.

The three were sworn in as the military and the country are engaged in a vigorous, divisive debate about what place immigrants should have in the armed forces and society at large.

The ceremony at George Washington's home took place as lawmakers on the other side of the Potomac River began debating a controversial immigration bill that would, among other provisions, grant legal status to virtually all undocumented workers, create a temporary worker program and tighten border controls.

The bill also calls for allowing the military to be a path to citizenship for a limited number of undocumented immigrants -- those who were brought to the United States when they were younger than 16 and have been living here for at least five years.

The ceremony also came as some military experts want to open the armed forces to undocumented immigrants and foreign recruits to fill the ranks as the Army and Marines plan troop increases.

Critics fear a flood of recruits lured solely by the promise of legal status. "A very large number of non-citizens could change the purpose of the military from the defense of the country to a job and a way to get a foot in the door of the United States," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates restrictions on immigration. "It becomes a kind of mercenary thing."

Others argue that a liberalized policy could improve the armed forces. Margaret Stock, an immigration lawyer, Army officer and law professor at West Point, noted that during wartime, military brass can already sign up undocumented immigrants, some of whom have received citizenship.

"I think that it's great for the military to allow people to enlist who are qualified to be in the military," Stock said. "Having papers doesn't tell me whether someone's qualified or not."

Official military policy is to accept legal permanent residents with green cards, although Congress in January 2006 gave military leaders wartime powers to enlist anyone they deem "vital to the national interest."


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