Undocumented Immigrant ‘Convinces’ The Army
From Hoy
October 9, 2003

By Jose L. Llanes

The announcement by the U.S. Army that it will allow an undocumented Mexican immigrant to stay within its ranks has created a national discussion.

The individual is 19-year-old Juan Escalante, who enrolled in the army using a falsified green card that he had purchased for a moderate fee of $50.

For some, the case of Escalante presents a double moral dilemma because laws in this country condemn not only the employment of undocumented immigrants, but also the falsification of legal documents.

Such is the viewpoint of a New York Post reporter who made a public outcry based on Escalante’s story and that of the dozens of undocumented immigrants who were recently caught working with false documentation in military installations throughout the United States.

Currently, more than 10,000 non-citizen soldiers, who are legal immigrants, have filed applications for an expedited citizenship process thanks to an executive order signed by President George W. Bush. In an exception to the rule, Escalante will be included in the lot.

Veteran Puerto Rican lawyer Joseph R. Erazo said that “a distinction must be made in these cases,” referring to Escalante and any other military personnel engaged in combat.

Erazo, who is both the father of a soldier based in Iraq and an advocate of immigrant rights, said that there is a difference between a soldier who enrolls to fight for this country and risks his life, and an individual who violates the law to work.
“ The story of this country is full of heroes who falsified their credentials so that they could fight, ” said the Boricua [Puerto Rican] lawyer

Guillermo Chacon, vice-president of CAUSA Salvadorian-American said, “The solution is to begin an intensive effort to legalize all immigrants. “This will guarantee not only the lives of those who came into this country to work, but also the security of the nation.”

Chacon is not a proponent of immigrants seeing the army as an option for their future and much less to gain legal status. “They must think about it twice. There are many irresponsible decisions being made in the war in Iraq. But on the other hand it is ironic that a legalization process in New York with all of the necessary documentation can take up to 39 months.”

Dan Smulian, Director of Training and Legal Services of the Coalition of Immigration of New York, said that Section 329 of Immigration Law has allowed for years that those persons active in the Army can become citizens and that the same law can be amended by the President as it was by President Bush.

“He did not create the law, but we think that not only immigrants should benefit from such services but also their family members,” said Smulian.

Immigrants’ rights advocates caution that the case of Escalante is no more than an exception to the rule and must not be thought of as a general rule. “The law says that you must be a permanent resident,” said Michele Waslin of the Consejo Nacional de la Raza.

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Translated from Spanish By Valeria Treves

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