Immigrant Marine in Life, U.S. citizen in death | St. Louis, Missouri Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking

Marine Cpl. Roberto Cazarez is being honored for his service in the U.S. Marine Corps. Just weeks before his battalion was set to return to the United States, Cazarez was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. He applied for U.S. citizenship prior to being deployed for combat and has been granted U.S. citizenship posthumously.

Cazarez is the 144th military service member to be awarded citizenship posthumously since the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks. Of those that have served, 139 served during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which include: “100 from the U.S. Army, 32 from the Marine Corps, six from the Navy and one from the National Guard.” At Cazarez’s ceremony, officials noted the important and historic role that immigrants have in the armed forces. There are currently 35,000 noncitizens on active duty and 12,000 that serve in the Guard or Reserves. “The U.S. military is built on a legacy of immigrant bravery,” said Col. Michael Richardson, who represented the Marine Corps at the ceremony.

Cazarez’s last wish prior to deploying was to be granted citizenship. Posthumous citizenship can be beneficial to surviving relatives in the U.S. In Cazarez’s case, his family members are already long-time U.S. residents and have legal status. Cazarez came to the U.S. from Sinaloa, Mexico as a child. He enlisted in the Marine Corps straight out of high school and “he always considered himself an American.” Prior to his deployment he even encouraged his nephew to enlist in the Marines. His nephew is currently in the process of completing boot camp in San Diego.

For many more military personnel in Cazarez’s situation, former President George W. Bush’s executive order authorizes an expedited citizenship process for those serving in the military. Since 2001, over 83,000 military personnel have acquired U.S. citizenship with over 10,000 of them being stationed overseas.

In order to enlist in the military, they must already be a permanent legal resident in the U.S. Once they are a part of the expedited process, the waiting period of three to five years that usually ensues is waived for military personnel.

For more information regarding the pathway to citizenship, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.