, Salem, MA


May 26, 2014

Column: Military service should count for something

I can’t help but wonder whether Rep. Eric Cantor ever heard of a soldier named Rey Cuervo.

I had never heard of Cuervo, and never even thought about the fact that not all U.S. soldiers are American citizens, until I arrived in Baghdad to report on the war in April 2004. My understanding was that I was going to Camp Muleskinner. I spent two days at Baghdad International Airport — two Ringling Bros.-size tents next to an airstrip — because the soldiers tasked with picking me up were busy fighting.

By the time I got to the camp, it wasn’t called Muleskinner anymore. It had been renamed to honor Army Pfc. Rey Cuervo, a soldier, a hero, and even a Texan, but not a citizen.

Upon his death, he was awarded a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Army Achievement Medal. And, posthumously, he was granted citizenship. Now in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, he’s an American forever.

Cuervo was able to serve and die for a country not officially his own because when his parents brought him here from Tampico, Mexico, at age 6, they were able to do so legally. He was one of about 30,000 “green card soldiers” serving in our military when he died.

Cantor, the Republican House majority leader from Virginia, is being primaried from the right, and is just a tiny bit worried. Because of that, even though he’s said he wants an immigration bill on the House floor this year, he said last week he opposes voting on an amendment to a must-pass Defense Department bill that would let those brought here illegally as children join the armed services and, upon honorable completion of service, be granted permanent status and a path to citizenship.

It is a tiny slice of the larger Dream Act, which I support, and I don’t quite understand the idea of those who oppose such legislation that because it’s “amnesty.” Children do not commit a crime in being moved here by their parents. Thus, no amnesty is necessary to allow them a chance to succeed in the nation in which they’ve been raised.

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