Steve Li in a photo from a Facebook page set up by friends
A story that has been making the rounds in recent days is that of Steve Li, a 20-year-old Chinese-American college student from San Francisco who is being held in an Arizona immigrant detention center awaiting his imminent deportation to Peru.
The destination seems baffling at first. Here's the backstory: Li's parents left China for Peru before he was born. He was born in Peru and lived there as a child until his parents left for the United States, fed up with political instability there. They applied for asylum here but their application was denied. At the time they arrived in the United States, Li was 12 years old.
While deportation cases involving American-raised young people are sadly common, Li's case is unusual in that his parents, who were temporarily detained then released on electronic monitoring, would be deported to China permitting their native country takes them back. But because they had their child in Peru, where Li has no friends or family, he is considered a Peruvian national.
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In a post earlier today about the record number of military naturalizations this past year, I briefly mentioned the story of the late Marine Lance Corporal José Gutierrez of Lomita, one of the first members of the U.S. military to die in the Iraq war on March 21, 2003.
It's been a few years since the release of this documentary about his life and death, The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez. But it's worth revisiting not only because it gets into the citizenship incentive for so-called "green card soldiers" to enlist, but because it recounts the life of an extraordinarily tenacious young man.
Orphaned in his native Guatemala by the age of nine, Gutierrez struggled to survive and eventually made his way north, with big dreams of becoming an architect. From a May 2003 story in the Los Angeles Times:
Photo by U.S. Army Korea-IMCOM/Flickr (Creative Commons)
A military naturalization ceremony held at a U.S. Army base in South Korea, December 2008
In time for Veterans Day, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced yesterday that a record number of U.S. military personnel became citizens in fiscal year 2010, which ended Sept. 30. It is the largest number of foreign-born soldiers naturalized in 55 years. From the press release:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced that in fiscal year 2010 it granted citizenship to 11,146 members of the U.S. armed forces at ceremonies in the United States and 22 countries abroad. This figure represents the highest number of service members naturalized in any year since 1955.
This number is a 6 percent increase from the 10,505 naturalizations in fiscal year 2009 and a significant increase from the 7,865 naturalizations in fiscal year 2008. Since September 2001, USCIS has naturalized nearly 65,000 service men and women, including those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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