Judge Upsets Reagan Order, Blocks Citizenship

Times Staff Writer

In a ruling that blocks several hundred aliens from attaining immediate U.S. citizenship, a federal judge here Thursday invalidated a 1987 executive order of former President Reagan extending citizenship to foreigners who served honorably in the U.S. armed forces and participated in the 1983 invasion of Grenada.

U.S. District Judge Earl B. Gilliam ruled that Reagan overstepped his authority by imposing a geographical limitation in the directive. The decision means that an undetermined number of alien sailors, soldiers and airmen who were naturalized solely for their participation in the invasion could be stripped of citizenship.

Gilliam’s ruling also has a direct affect on an unknown number of Filipino nationals who mostly served aboard Navy ships in Grenada. A little known agreement between the two governments allows about 400 Filipino males to enlist in the U.S. Navy each year. These men are not given permanent residency status and can obtain citizenship only if the U.S. goes to war during their enlistment.

If Gilliam had struck down the geographical limitation in Reagan’s order, as requested by Arthur Reyes, a Navy enlisted man stationed in San Diego who sued the Immigration and Naturalization Service for citizenship, an estimated 1,700 Filipino sailors could have qualified for citizenship.


Reyes, an 8-year Navy veteran, had sued on grounds that the “legislative history” of a little known immigration statute prohibits the President from imposing a geographical limitation when he declares a period of hostilities. Reagan made such a declaration for Oct. 25 through Nov. 2, 1983--the time of the Grenada invasion.

Gilliam agreed with Reyes’ argument, but he ruled that it was not Reagan’s intent that every alien serving anywhere during the nine days of the invasion become eligible for citizenship.