A rule preventing noncitizens from joining the American Gold Star Mothers after they lose a son or daughter in the U.S. armed forces could be...

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A rule preventing noncitizens from joining the American Gold Star Mothers after they lose a son or daughter in the U.S. armed forces could be changed, the incoming president said after the group received complaints over an immigrant woman who was shut out.

“The charter was written 77 years ago and we’re in the next generation, I realize that,” said Judith Young of Moorestown, N.J., who becomes president next month. “Things have changed, times have changed, people have changed.”

The organization of about 1,200 mothers was criticized after Ligaya Lagman, a Filipina whose son was killed last year in Afghanistan, was barred from joining because she is not a U.S. citizen. She is a legal resident and has lived in the United States more than 20 years.

Some politicians called for the group to change its rules immediately.

Gov. George Pataki wrote to the current president, Ann Herd, yesterday, saying the group should “review its policies on membership in the interest of fairness and in recognition of the fact that service in defense of American freedom should be the paramount factor in determining eligibility.”

Young said the group’s office has been overwhelmed with critical messages, some vulgar.

But Young said the change must be proposed in an amendment from a mother or chapter and then be voted on by all members. “It’s not something you just … change overnight,” she said.

Lagman’s application was initiated by Ben Spadaro, a veteran from Yonkers, who said he learned about the group’s citizenship rules while working on a national-cemetery committee of the Veterans Administration. He said Lagman’s mother should be able to join the group because her son, Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Lagman, was a citizen and has been buried with full honors.

“It was a ploy to get them to reject her, and then we said they should change the rules,” Spadaro said.

But the organization’s 12-member executive board voted against any change.

“There’s nothing we can do because that’s what our organization says: You have to be an American citizen,” Herd said Thursday. “We can’t go changing the rules every time the wind blows.”