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99 Year Old, Formerly Undocumented WWII Veteran–The “Original DREAMer”–Journeys to DC to Advocate for DREAMers

by Guest Blogger on 12/11/2013 at 6:22pm

The following is a cross-posted press release:

Decorated Immigrant Veteran asks Rep. Kline and Others to Honor Immigrant Service by Allowing New Generation to Serve

Formerly undocumented WWII Veteran Joseph Medina lands in DC this week to advocate for undocumented immigrants brought to this country as minors—or DREAMers—who wish to serve in the military but cannot because of their lack of legal status. Flanked by DREAMers who wish to serve, the 99 year old decorated veteran will relay his story of service to members of Congress and ask that the House of Representatives honor the history of immigrants in the US armed forces by passing immigration reform to allow young undocumented immigrants who have grown up in the U.S. to enlist in the military.

“I was brought to this country when I was five years old and had no idea I was undocumented. When WWII started, I joined because I love this country and only discovered that I had no legal status after I joined the military,” said Joseph Medina. “Today there are millions of DREAMers just like me who wish to serve the country they know as home but are excluded from doing so by our broken immigration system.”

Immigrants are essential to the United States’ military. According to data from the Department of Defense, more than 65,000 immigrants were serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces in 2008—a full five percent of the active duty force. Furthermore, immigrant soldiers have achieved high honors through their service such as Nepali born Sgt. Saral Shrestha who was named the U.S. Army’s 2012 Soldier of the Year. Historically, 20 percent of all Medal of Honor recipients were born abroad. A number of military leaders, including former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, have spoken in support of allowing immigrants covered by the Dream Act to join the military as part of that bill.

To complete his trip, Medina will take a moment to visit the WWII memorial for the first time. Beside him will be his son, Michael Medina, who served the military in Vietnam and now heads the American Veterans-Mexican American Post #5 in West St. Paul, MN. “Despite his country of birth, my father fought for the US, built a strong community in Minnesota, and inspired me to follow his footsteps. Now we look to DREAMers to continue the proud tradition of immigrant military service,” said Michael Medina.

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