WASHINGTON – So many major initiatives have died in Washington this year that it’s sometimes hard to keep track. But 99 year-old St. Paul resident Joseph Medina doesn’t want to let overhauling the nation’s immigration laws be one of them.
Medina’s story is a fascinating one that gives a sense of how much immigration laws and bureaucracy have changed over the past 70 years. Medina was born in Mexico and brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was five. The family moved to St. Paul in 1925 but it was only when Medina signed up for the Army in 1944 that he discovered he wasn’t an American citizen.
With the military in need of every able-bodied soldier it could find, Medina’s superiors came up with a plan.
“They sent me to Canada,” Medina told reporters today. There, Medina received new papers at an American consulate and re-crossed the border as an American citizen.
Medina went on to serve in the Pacific and returned home after the war to his family. Medina’s son, Michael, followed his father into military service and served during the Vietnam War.
Today, people who are in the country who can’t prove they are citizens aren’t permitted to serve in the military, and Medina hopes his visit to Washington will help push legislation that would give that option to young immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children.
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar joined Medina at the World War II Memorial in the capital to advocate for long-stalled immigration bill. The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a comprehensive bill in June that would give undocumented immigrants the chance to enlist in the military and be eligible for citizenship, but the Republican-controlled House has not yet brought up similar legislation in that chamber.
“We hope that by hearing stories like this, it will help our House colleagues to pass a bill,” said Klobuchar.