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Three Hurt GIs Become Citizens

Times Staff Writer

At an event that linked the most sensitive domestic and foreign policy issues currently before the White House -- immigration and the war in Iraq -- President Bush on Monday attended a ceremony at which three wounded soldiers were given U.S. citizenship. He also signed legislation blocking condominium associations from prohibiting residents from flying the U.S. flag.

“If somebody is willing to risk their life for our country, they ought to be full participants in our country,” Bush said in a ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center before Emilio Gonzalez, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, administered the citizenship oath to the three men who suffered severe wounds in Iraq.

Under an executive order Bush signed in July 2002, U.S. military personnel who are not citizens are eligible for immediate naturalization through active-duty service under certain conditions during periods of military hostilities. According to the White House, more than 26,000 members of the military have been naturalized since Sept. 11, 2001.

“As our nation debates the future of our immigration policies, we must remember the contribution of these good men, and all who dream of contributing to this country’s future,” Bush said.

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The three soldiers are Pfc. Eduardo Leal-Cardenas, 21, of Los Angeles, originally from Mexico; Spec. Noe Santos-Dilone, 21, of New York City, originally from the Dominican Republic; and Spec. Sergio Lopez, 24, of Bolingbrook, Ill., originally from Mexico.

The flag legislation generated little attention and was approved on a voice vote in the Senate, its final hurdle, July 17.

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.) said he introduced it after a constituent reported that some condominium associations had policies preventing homeowners from displaying the flag.

The legislation was part of a package of measures making their way through Congress that Republicans hope will energize conservative voters with appeals to patriotism and conservative values.

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In a written statement, Bush praised the legislation as “an important measure to protect our citizens’ right to express their patriotism here at home without burdensome restrictions.”


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