Bush signs citizenship bill for soldiers in honor of Md. man killed in Iraq

President Bush has signed into law a bill drafted in honor of a Maryland soldier killed in Iraq while trying to complete an application for U.S. citizenship.

The bill, the Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act, was signed yesterday. It ensures that soldiers may use the fingerprints taken upon enlisting if they apply for citizenship.

Frederick, of Randallstown, was a 21-year-old native of Trinidad who moved to the United States in 1999.

He died in October 2005 while he was on his way to provide fingerprints needed for his citizenship application when a bomb exploded by a road near Tikrit.

He had been told that his military fingerprints were not acceptable for the citizenship application.

The law could help the more than 33,000 noncitizens serving in the military, said U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who worked on the bill with Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

Frederick had a sense of adventure that led him to join the Junior ROTC as a freshman in high school, becoming a platoon leader his senior year, said his mother, Michelle Murphy. He began eight years of Army service upon graduation, working as a mechanic who fixed power generators. In 2004, he began serving in Iraq.

Mikulski first heard about Frederick’s case when she called Murphy, who told Mikulski she wanted to help prevent military personnel from going through what Frederick had experienced. Mikulski vowed to help change the law.

If the Department of Homeland Security “had followed their own rules and also had just dealt with them with competency, that young man wouldn’t have been at that convoy,” Mikulski said.

“But what we do know is that he did not die in vain. He died serving his country, and now, because of the work of his mother in his name, we have changed the law,” the senator said.

Mikulski and Cummings introduced the legislation in December 2005. The bill did not pass until this year because of scrutiny to make sure it did not lessen citizenship requirements, Cummings said.

Miikulski and Cummings plan to hold a ceremony Tuesday at Fort McHenry to mark the act’s passage.