Chairman of Joint Chiefs gives emotional testimony on immigration

July 10, 2006

Gen. Peter Pace credits his immigrant father for his success

MIAMI (AP) — The nation’s top general testified emotionally Monday about the importance of immigrants in the military, recalling his father’s struggles as an Italian immigrant and his own service in Vietnam.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace paused several times as he spoke at a Senate committee hearing on immigration and appeared choked up as he discussed his parents’ hardships and his siblings’ success now.

“My dad came here, sometimes worked three jobs, but the jobs were there for him and the opportunities were there for him,” Pace, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said at a field hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “There is no other country on the planet that affords that opportunity to those who come.”

Pace also discussed serving in Vietnam next to immigrant soldiers, including the first Marine that Pace said he lost in combat. He said he was “still on active duty today for one primary reason, and that is I still owe those who served with me in Vietnam.”

The hearings are part of the national debate on the current state of U.S. immigration law and how any changes would affect the military.

The Senate has approved a bill that would allow a majority of the estimated 12 million foreigners living in the country illegally to eventually become legal permanent residents and citizens, and that would approve a guest worker program. A bill approved by the House would make illegal immigrants felons with no provision for future guest workers. House and Senate negotiators have not worked out a compromise.

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