Congress Expected To Pass Dent Immigration Bill This Week

Allentown Morning Call

Congress is poised to send a bill to the president’s desk this week that will help a Lebanese man from the Lehigh Valley become a U.S. citizen.

Written by U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, the bill ensures that people with green cards working at U.S. embassies abroad are able to become naturalized citizens even though they are not currently living in America and haven’t lived there continuously for the requisite five years.

The House passed the bill unanimously on Dec. 5. The companion measure, sponsored by Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, is expected to pass the Senate this week.

“As Americans, we know it is unfair that people who so greatly wish to become American citizens should be penalized bureaucratically while they are making critical contributions to our country in the war against terrorism across the globe,” Dent said in a statement.

George Bou Jaoudeh of Bethlehem works in security for the U.S. State Department in Iraq. He moved to Bethlehem in 2004, receiving his green card after working at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon for 17 years. But unable to find a job stateside, he left eight months later to take a job with the U.S. government in Iraq.

Because he didn’t live in the United States for at least a year after receiving his green card the clock never started on his five-year residency requirement.

In 2008, then-U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, wrote to the Homeland Security Department asking that Bou Jaoudeh’s citizenship application be expedited and the residency requirement exempted. Crocker said that the Bethlehem man’s “prescience and diligence probably saved my life and other official Americans on a number of occasions.”

But still, Bou Jaoudeh’s application was rejected by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In 2009, The Morning Call spoke to Bou Jaoudeh about his citizenship complication:

“I sacrificed for 17 years in Beirut and four years in Iraq. Is that enough to earn citizenship?” said Bou Jaoudeh in an interview from Baghdad, where he works as the high-threat protection division investigator at the U.S. Embassy. “I don’t want to feel like a second-class citizen.”

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