Fernando Suarez’ son Jesus was killed just a few days into the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003 under unclear circumstances — possibly the unintentional victim of a U.S. cluster bomb. Since then, Suarez has founded the Aztec Warrior Peace Project to speak to young Latinos about the real dangers of military life and military service.
I was excited to hear about a group that was doing this work, since there is a long history of Latino military service, but there is also a history of Latino organizing against war (for more, check out Raza Si, Guerra No). And I was surprised to read about another thing that happened after the death of the young Marine Jesus Suarez:
When he died, Jesus Suarez automatically became a US citizen, allowing him to be buried as an American soldier.
There are around 30,000 green card holders on active duty, and their fates vary… some folks will get their green cards, like Segun Frederick Akintade, then get killed (he got his green card while in the reserves before his violent death in Iraq). Others may have family members threatened with deportation after their death, like Specialist Alex Jimenez, whose wife was fighting deportation after his abduction earlier this year (she was able to get a hardship waiver after the case attracted national attention).
And yes, others will get their citizenship thanks to an expedited process available to some military personnel. The military swore in 200 folks in Veteran’s Day ceremonies overseas last month.
I agree with Mr. Suarez that folks should just be clear on the risks they’re taking on when they enlist in today’s military: you may see a faster path to becoming a citizen, or you may be changed by your military service in ways you not prepared for, or you may be blown to bits, leaving your family to grieve you.
YANO (Youth and Non-Military Opportunities) has an excellent flier for folks who are immigrants to the U.S. and are considering military service: