For 63 service members, this land is now their land

DURHAM, N.C. - Sixty-three soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, serving the U.S. government but not yet recognized by it, lined up on the steps of the Triangle's new immigration office Friday, ready to swear an oath to their adopted country.

A breeze ruffled a high-flying flag and morning sunlight glinted off brass buttons as Jonathan Scharfen, acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, led the candidates in their oath. With traffic rumbling down Interstate 40 and the smell of pizza wafting from a restaurant next door, the somber-faced service members forsook foreign princes and potentates and promised to defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies.

These new citizens were already fulfilling the promise to defend. Since the Revolutionary War, Scharfen said, the American military has relied on foreign-born fighters and recognized their service by making them citizens. A federal law that went into effect in 2004 streamlined the naturalization process for those who have served. All legal immigrants in good standing who have served since Sept. 11, 2001, are immediately eligible to apply.

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