News: New Marine becomes US citizen
Story by Lance Cpl. Michael Rogers
PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. - “Today is all so crazy,” said Pvt. Luis Rodriguez, a recent graduate of Platoon 1054, Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion. “I don’t even believe this is actually happening right now.”
Rodriguez, a 23-year-old native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, took the Oath of Allegiance and became an American citizen the day he graduated recruit training.
The naturalization process began the night he stepped off the bus and onto the Yellow Footprints when he started his in-process paperwork.
He became the first graduate to go through one of the depot’s newest programs when he took the oath at the Parris Island Museum among family, fellow graduates, his drill instructors, and the Marines who helped him through the process.
“We’re hoping dozens will go through this program,” said 1st Lt. Angel Alfaro, a legal assistance officer at the Parris Island Law Center. “We do everything in our power to ensure they have every opportunity to go through the process.”
A presidential order issued by President George W. Bush in 2002 stated when the nation is engaged in armed conflict, immigrants who are in the military can obtain their U.S. citizenship regardless of their length of residency or immigration status as opposed to the three-year process during peacetimes.
Since its issue, the Army and Navy have designed programs that allow non-citizens to step on their depots and leave as citizens, said Alfaro, 30, of El Paso, Texas.
“I take this very personally because I’m a son of immigrants, and I know, from my parents’ experience, this is a very big deal,” he said. “We’re expecting more recruits to go through the naturalization process as this program gets refined, but as of right now, this Marine is the first one.”
The new Marine sought the Corps for the sense of brotherhood and for the challenge, but chose a military career to serve the country that gave his family an opportunity for a better way of life, Rodriguez said.
He worked for three years to provide the proper documentation for his recruiters and preparing for training before he was finally able to ship out.
“It really took a lot for me to get here,” he said. “I’ve wanted to join since 2009, but I was missing some of the paperwork from my high school. It’s always been my dream to become a United States Marine and I never gave up because I’m not a quitter.”
The program is expected to be fully constructed by fall of this year, Alfaro said.
“I hope this Marine takes this opportunity to run with it and shine,” he said. “He stepped aboard this depot as a civilian who was a noncitizen. Now, he’s leaving as one of America’s finest as a United States Marine and he’s a citizen of the greatest country in the world.”