Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Becoming an American Citizen, the Hardest Way

Maria Alcántara, center, and her daughter Fredelinda Peña, in striped sweater,
took the citizenship oath on Monday for Ms. Alcántara’s son,
Cpl. Juan Alcántara,
who died in Iraq.
Photo: Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Published: September 18, 2007

On an August day when some Iraqi’s homemade bomb tore through him, Cpl. Juan Mariel Alcántara became an American. He never got to appreciate the honor.


A little-discussed detail of this war is that some of those fighting in it as soldiers of the United States are not American citizens. Over all, about 21,000 noncitizens are serving in this country’s armed forces, the Defense Department says.

Until death claimed him on Aug. 6, one of them was Corporal Alcántara of the United States Army.

He did not live long enough to acquire a richly textured biography. He was born in the Dominican Republic, reared in Washington Heights. He was 22 when the bomb — an improvised explosive device, in military-speak — ended his life and the lives of three fellow soldiers from the Second Infantry Division while they searched a house in Baquba, north of Baghdad.

At 22, Corporal Alcántara was old enough to have talked about going to college and maybe becoming a New York police officer, old enough to have a fiancée, old enough to have fathered a baby girl he never saw, Jaylani, 6 weeks old when he was killed. He was old enough, too, to have sought American citizenship.

Every year, thousands of noncitizen soldiers do that, through an accelerated naturalization process offered to those who put themselves in harm’s way so that the rest of us can go about our lives untouched by war. And every year, some of those soldiers become citizens only after they have literally been wrapped in the flag.

No other war has produced anywhere near as many posthumous citizens as this one, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Corporal Alcántara is the latest, No. 103. He is the 12th from New York, an honor roll that reflects today’s city: 10 men and 2 women born in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Guyana, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Myanmar and Nigeria.

The Americanization of Juan Alcántara came at his family’s request. Representative Charles B. Rangel of Manhattan helped shepherd the application through the bureaucracy in a matter of days. Officially, the corporal was declared an American from the day he died.

There was a formal ceremony yesterday in the colonnaded Great Hall of City College of New York. Corporal Alcántara’s relatives accepted his certificate of posthumous citizenship. They sat somberly in a front row: his mother, his two sisters and his fiancée, Sayonara Lopez, who fed Jaylani from a bottle.

Like scores of others filling the rows behind them, they carried small American flags. Yesterday was Citizenship Day across the country, a celebratory day for newly minted Americans. In the vaulted majesty of the Great Hall, used on occasion for such ceremonies, 242 people from 51 countries took the oath of citizenship. They were men and women like Lance Whitely, 32, formerly of Jamaica, now of the Bronx. “It’s everybody’s dream to become an American citizen,” he said before the ceremony began.

The new citizens listened to speeches on America’s grandeur and watched a large-screen video of President Bush offering congratulations.

Mr. Rangel, a critic of the Iraq war, left politics at the door. He spoke of a country that is hardly perfect but is ever working to make itself better. Once a combat soldier himself, part of the same Second Infantry Division during the Korean War, he talked about Corporal Alcántara’s sacrifice and America’s debt to him.

Throughout, the Alcántara family sat disconsolately. They applauded with the others and recited the Pledge of Allegiance and waved their little flags. But their hearts were elsewhere.

Maria Alcántara, the soldier’s mother, is clearly a woman of stricken soul. She holds Mr. Bush responsible for her son’s death. Corporal Alcántara’s Iraq duty was supposed to have ended on June 28, a day before his daughter was born. But his tour was extended as part of the president’s troop “surge.”

“If my son had been allowed to return, he would be alive,” Ms. Alcántara said in Spanish, “and he” — meaning the president — “is guilty.”

“My happiness, my everything, is gone,” she said.

The mother, who is not an American citizen, also spoke of being grateful for her son’s naturalization. Still, gratitude does not bring peace of mind, said one of her daughters, Fredelinda Peña. “It’s not a happy moment,” Ms. Peña said.

Unlike others on this day of celebration, the family wiped away tears. When the president’s image appeared on the screen, Ms. Alcántara kept her head down. She could not bring herself to look at the man who she felt was the reason her son did not come home.

E-mail: haberman@nytimes.com



13 comments:

Jerry said...

cheap wedding gowns,
discount bridal gowns,
China wedding dresses,
discount designer wedding dresses,
China wedding online store,
plus size wedding dresses,
cheap informal wedding dresses,
junior bridesmaid dresses,
cheap bridesmaid dresses,
maternity bridesmaid dresses,
discount flower girl gowns,
cheap prom dresses,
party dresses,
evening dresses,
mother of the bride dresses,
special occasion dresses,
cheap quinceanera dresses,
hot red wedding dresses

rozydesouza said...

good one.... thanks for sharing....

___________________
Rozy
Payday loans Today

传斌 said...

replica Watches
replica Watches
replica Watches
fake Watches
knockoff Watches
replica Rolex Watches
replica Breitling Watches
replica Cartier Watches
replica Omega Watches
replica Tag Heuer Watches
replica Bell & Ross Watches
replica Panerai Watches
replica IWC Watches
replica Patek Philippe Watches
replica Chopard Watches
replica Gucci Watches
replica Corum Watches
replica Montblanc Watches
replica Jacob & Co Watches
replica A.Dunhill Watches
replica A.Lange & Sohne Watches
replica Alain Silberstein Watches
replica Audemars Piguet Watches
replica B.R.M Watches
replica Baume & Mercier Watches
replica Blancpain Watches
replica BMW Watches
replica Breguet Watches
replica Burberry Watches
replica Bvlgari Watches
replica Chronoswiss Watches
replica Concord Watches
replica D&G Watches
replica De Witt Watches
replica Dior Watches

Anonymous said...

Replica Handbags
Fake Handbags
Knockoff Handbags

Replica Louis Vuitton Handbags
Replica Gucci Handbags
Replica Chanel Handbags
Prada Handbags
Replica Fendi Handbags
Replica Dolce Gabbana Handbags
Replica Chloe Handbags
Replica Jimmy Choo Handbags
Replica Thomas Wylde Handbags
Replica MiuMiu Handbags

Replica Balenciaga Handbags
Replica Coach Handbags
Replica Lancel Handbags
Replica Hermes Handbags
Replica Marc Jacobs Handbags
Replica Anya Hindmarch Handbags
Replica YSL Handbags
Replica Mulberry Handbags
Replica Givenchy Handbags
Replica Valentino Handbags
Replica Versace Handbags
Replica Cartier Handbags
Replica Marni Handbags
Replica Bottega Veneta Handbags
Replica Loewe Handbags
Replica Kooba Handbags

Replica Bally Handbags
Replica Burberry Handbags
Replica Christian Dior Handbags
Replica Juicy Couture Handbags
Replica Ferragamo Handbags
Replica Celine Handbags

Adi said...

Oes Tsetnoc one of the ways in which we can learn seo besides Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa. By participating in the Oes Tsetnoc or Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa we can improve our seo skills. To find more information about Oest Tsetnoc please visit my Oes Tsetnoc pages. And to find more information about Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa please visit my Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa pages. Thank you So much.
Oes Tsetnoc | Semangat Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa

Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently discussing about how involved with technology our daily lives have become. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.


I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further advances, the possibility of uploading our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could encounter in my lifetime.


(Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=http://cid-2602f0e287041cef.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!2602F0E287041CEF!106.entry]R4 Card[/url] DS QDos)

Anonymous said...

Hello readers
Do not miss your chance to get a free ipad. Visit http://bit.ly/d9QOON

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone
Do not miss your chance to get a free iPhone 4G. Visit http://bit.ly/d9QOON

Anonymous said...

酒店兼職 酒店打工 打工 台北酒店 酒店兼差 酒店經紀 禮服酒店 酒店工作 酒店上班 兼差 酒店應徵 酒店

Anonymous said...

niagara falls hotel prices
cheap hotels gold coast
hotel moliere
ivy hotel
dream hotel
dolphin hotel

Anonymous said...

JheCmc [url=http://onnrainnmcm.com/#66373]MCM バッグ[/url] SemOhc http://onnrainnmcm.com/ IsgFhm [url=http://mcmsenmon.com/#41357]MCM バッグ[/url] YtkIrh http://mcmsenmon.com/ UvmSgj [url=http://ninnkimcm.com/#17386]MCM キーケース[/url] OvxUig http://ninnkimcm.com/ DxsYjf [url=http://kaidokumcm.com/#60298]MCM バッグ[/url] PgkJip http://kaidokumcm.com/ LkiMdr [url=http://manzokumcm.com/#62229]MCM 財布[/url] JzqGdh http://manzokumcm.com/ HlsQez http://chloenihon.com/ ZnwQty [url=http://chloenihon.com/]シーバイクロエ[/url] RvhUpe http://louboutindendou.com/ RkeVba [url=http://louboutindendou.com/]クリスチャンルブタン セール[/url] UicZmq http://guccisenmon.com/ McsIez [url=http://guccisenmon.com/]GUCCI ショルダーバッグ[/url] NndSto [url=http://mcmhannbai.com/]MCM[/url] JazCjf [url=http://mcmhannbai.com/]MCM バッグ[/url]

Anonymous said...

buy ativan lorazepam buy online no prescription - generic drug name ativan

Anonymous said...

[url=http://www.vip1michaelkorsoutlet.org]Michael Kors Outlet[/url] Tags: 3 sets, exercises disc problems, 3 setsVertical Jump Ab Exercises With Knee Grow Station By: Dawna Calabrese | Jun 2nd 2013 - This type of exercise is generally very good for the heart and circulation, and is asked help reverse some of my physical effects of ageing

[url=http://www.mislouboutinsaleuk.co.uk]Christian Louboutin Sale[/url]Although I smiled, on the inside it truly was not

[url=http://www.getfreerunaustralia.org]Nike Shoes Australia[/url]BeautiFeel's dedication to comfort and style ensures superior value for every woman

[url=http://www.vipnikenewzealand.info]Nike NZ[/url] These shoes can satisfy your demand of Christian's shoes

[url=http://www.upnikepascherfr.info]Nike Pas Cher[/url] Currently, there is only one sales agent of Christian Louboutin in general merchandise shops in Crawford, USA