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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Non-U.S. Citizens Ready to Serve in Military to Gain Citizenship

Aired April 5, 2003 - 06:55   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: As the war does rage on in Iraq, back home U.S. armed forces are finding many eager recruits. As our Thelma Gutierrez reports, quite a few who enlist want to become U.S. citizens.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's old- fashioned recruiting...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys ready?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're a single mom?

Are you ready, man?

GUTIERREZ: ... in time of war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys citizens?

GUTIERREZ: Now, the U.S. government has sweetened a deal for non-citizens willing to enlist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And one other reason to probably join the Army is to get your citizenship.

GUTIERREZ: It's the ultimate price for 17-year-old Elsa Jaime. She's a Mexican citizen who has lived in Los Angeles legally since she was a baby. But she's always dreamed of becoming a U.S. citizen.

ELSA JAIME, POTENTIAL RECRUIT: My mom struggled to get me here as an immigrant. She crossed the border running, and now we're here. So she struggled, and now I should thank America for everything it's gave me.

GUTIERREZ: If Elsa joins up, she'll be on the fast-track toward citizenship, but the offer is only open to legal residents, those who have green cards, not the undocumented.

The Executive Order was signed by the president last year.

HARRY PACHON, THOMAS RIVERA POLICY INSTITUTE: It's a significant factor when you consider that there's maybe like close to 4 percent of the nation's armed forces are green card soldiers. So it is about 40,000 troops right now are green card holders and not U.S. citizens.

GUTIERREZ: Another advantage to a enlisting? A college education for Elsa, one she cannot afford.

JAIME: I would like to enlist. I'm a little bit scared about the war that's going on and stuff, but I would like to enlist for one of the main reasons to go to Pepperdine University.

GUTIERREZ: A picture of the private university hangs on her wall.

(on camera): It looks as though you have these things up in your room to kind of remind you of what your goals are.

JAIME: Yes, they do. They show me what I'm going towards every morning that I wake up.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Perhaps the dream of citizenship and a better life were reasons Private 1st Class Jose Gutierrez, a Guatemalan citizen, and Jose Garibay of Mexico enlisted. Both died in the war and have been granted citizenship posthumously.

CHRYSTAL GARIBAY, SISTER: Yes, they made by brother a citizen. Everybody is happy. But we know he deserved it.

GUTIERREZ: Elsa knows the danger and that she, too, could make the ultimate sacrifice. She says it's a risk she's willing to take for her dreams of becoming somebody in this country.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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