LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (AP) – The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved posthumous citizenship for two fallen Marines from Southern California, Cpl. Jose Angel Garibay and Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, both killed in combat in Iraq.
The new bureau’s acting director, Eduardo Aguire, is expected to sign their certificates of naturalization on Wednesday in Laguna Niguel, bureau spokesman Ron Rogers said Tuesday.
Both men were single.
Garibay, 21, of Costa Mesa, died March 23 in Nasiriyah, south of Baghdad. He was a native of Jalisco, Mexico, whose family moved to the United States when he was a baby.
Garibay joined the Marines three years ago and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Gutierrez, 22, of Lomita, died March 21 at the port city of Umm Qasr, becoming one of the first casualties of war. When he was 14, Gutierrez crossed into California after taking trains from Guatemala through Mexico.
The orphan found a foster family, attended high school in Southern California, then joined the Marine Corps in gratitude to the United States. He sent money back home to his biological sister in Guatemala.
“He joined the Marines to pay back a little of what he’d gotten from the U.S. For him it was a question of honor,” said foster brother Max Mosquera.
In September, Gutierrez became an infantry rifleman with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Marine Maj. Brian Dolan, who has been helping the Garibay family, said the Marine Corps facilitated the citizenship process after Garibay’s mother, Simona, mentioned that it was always her son’s dream to become a citizen.
“I took that on as something we possibly could help out with and do the right thing,” Dolan said, adding that Garibay’s mother is also in the process of becoming a citizen.
“Her son died fighting for this country, so I certainly think it is warranted that her son gained citizenship and is buried as an American citizen,” Dolan said.