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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Freeloader of America's Finest: In the Crosshairs of Xenophobes

In 1995, Jose Gutierrez was a 14-year-old orphan in Guatemala when he decided to do what 700,000 other Guatemalans had done -- enter the United States illegally. Two thousand miles and 14 freight trains later, Gutierrez crossed the border. He was promptly arrested by the Border Patrol. Being a minor and without a family, he was spared deportation and turned over to California's welfare system. He spent the next four years in foster homes, learning English, attending and graduating high school, getting his medical needs taken care of by the public-health system. As the lexicon of neo-flag-wavers would put it, Gutierrez was freeloading on the American taxpayer.
 
When he turned 18, Gutierrez got himself a green card. He planned to be an architect. Not quite having the means yet, in 2002 he joined the Marines. A year later he found himself shipping off to Kuwait. And in the first hours on the first day of the Iraq invasion, he was killed on the outskirts of Umm Qasr, just inside the Iraqi border. He was the first of 2,322 Americans (so far) to be killed in the war. He is, as the lexicon of neo-flag-wavers likes to say, a hero, a patriot, among America's finest.
 
So. Which is it? Freeloader? Illegal immigrant? Criminal? Or hero?
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