How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Army unit' scheme a reminder of the military's pull for non-citizens

A military naturalization ceremony, July 2010. Photo by NOWCastSA/Flickr (Creative Commons)

In case any sort of reminder was needed of how desperate many immigrants are for U.S. citizenship, one came yesterday in the sentencing of Yupeng "David" Deng, a Chinese immigrant from El Monte accused of charging fellow immigrants upwards of $400 to join a bogus “special forces” military unit that he told them would provide a path to citizenship.

Deng, who led the fake unit as its "supreme commander," was sentenced to three years in state prison in connection with the scheme after pleading guilty to various charges. He has been ordered to pay restitution to his victims, Chinese immigrants who believed his citizenship promise.

It wasn't the only reminder of the draw of the military as a path to citizenship this week.

On Tuesday, during a packed Senate hearing on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM Act), retired Lt. Colonel Margaret Stock of the Military Police Corps and U.S. Army Reserve testified on how the proposed legislation is a valuable recruiting tool. The Dream Act would grant conditional legal status not only to undocumented college students brought to the U.S. before age 16, but to young people who enlist.

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