Photo 1: U.S. President Barack Obama looks on as Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (unseen) delivers the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House July 4, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama welcomed the new citizens on America’s 236th Independence Day.
Photo 2: Active duty service members take the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in the East Room of the White House July 4, 2012 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the new citizens on America’s 236th Independence Day.
Photo 3: President Barack Obama greets service members after they became U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 4, 2012.
Photo 4: President Barack Obama says the Pledge of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 4, 2012. ( Photos by Roger L. Wollenberg/Getty Images, AP Photo/Evan Vucci )
By Ann Compton, ABC OTUS News and U.S. News Agency / Asian
Twenty-five members of the military are taking the citizenship oath in the presence of their commander-in-chief in a rare Independence Day ceremony today in the White House East Room. They are all active duty, just a handful of the estimated 29,000 foreigners now wearing a U.S. military uniform.
Among them are Hans Lemuel Pang Sy, who joined the Army after 9/11, six years after his family had emigrated from the Philippines. Cristian Felipe Zapata Gil came from Colombia as a teenager but was motivated to become an Army engineer after the catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti.
Since shortly after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the U.S. government has put foreign military service personnel on a fast track to citizenship “to recognize their contribution and sacrifice,” according to a Pentagon spokeswoman. About 8,000 immigrants enlist each year in the U.S. armed forces.
Foreigners must be in the U.S. legally and must have an established home, and they can serve as enlisted personnel but as non-citizens are not eligible to become military officers. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs John Shalikashvili was born in Poland and as a naturalized citizen he rose through Army ranks to the highest job in the military.
This is the third naturalization ceremony President Obama has hosted for active-duty service members. The Pentagon says that since September 11, 2001, more than 75,000 foreigners in American uniform have become U.S. citizens.