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ABC Honors the Naturalization of True Immigrant Patriots

Independence Day is a traditional day for people who have applied for American citizenship to achieve their dream and become naturalized citizens.  On their July 4 evening broadcasts NBC and ABC paid tribute to a select group of such people – those putting their desire for citizenship on the front lines of war. 

ABC's World News with Charles Gibson gave the story the depth it deserved, especially in light of the fight over immigration that has made headlines for the past months.

After starting the story with the Disney World naturalization ceremony of 1,000 new U.S. citizens from 100 countries, ABC reporter John Hendren turned the focus to Baghdad where 161 men and women from 54 countries, all serving in the United States military, were sworn in as citizens of the United States.

Hendren noted that presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) was in the audience.  But he turned to General David Petraeus, the U.S. Commander of multinational forces in Iraq, to deliver the central statement: “You accepted that you might have to pay the ultimate price on behalf of a nation to which you did not fully belong.”

There has been no dearth of stories dealing sympathetically with the plight of illegal immigrants on the news for the past several months.  So the ABC story was refreshing because the broadcast devoted a chunk of time to immigrants who have come into the country legally and have literally put their lives on the line for the citizenship they so desire.

Hendren set the story in stark terms which made the impact all the more resonant.

Hendren: “161 U.S. service members became American citizens here today. There were supposed to be 163. Two were killed within the past month, a reminder of the sacrifice that sometimes comes with that honor. Jamaican-born sergeant Kimel Watt, a Bronze Star recipient, was killed by a roadside bomb on June 3rd. Specialist Farid Elazzouzi, born in Morocco, was killed on patrol June 14th. Today, the soldiers were remembered by their fellow immigrants. Brand-new citizens who range in age from 19 to 51-year-old former Scotsman William Graham, a naval reservist who asked to be sent to Iraq."

Graham: “It's a country worth fighting for and I'd rather keep the terrorists over here than see them in the States.”

Natasha Lavinski, a former Palestinian refugee and now U.S. citizen serving in the Army summed it up best when she told Hendren, “It's not just independence of the United States. It's my independence.”

Anchor Charles Gibson told the viewing audience that some 2,000 members of the U.S. military are not citizens of this country.  Putting their sacrifice and story into the spotlight on Independence Day seemed especially fitting.  

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.