American Vets Deported After Promise of Citizenship
Under Trump, the U.S. is still reneging on its promises to provide citizenship to many veterans who signed up to serve in exchange for citizenship.
It is a tragic story, and one that in any other walk of life would be considered a criminal scam. What happened is that many members of the U.S. armed forces joined the military, under the grounds that they were going to be granted U.S. citizenship after returning from duty with an honorable discharge. The truth is instead that at best these immigrant veterans have to fight yet again on their return, to demand that those deals be honored. At worst, many of these immigrant veterans are coming back to find they are to be deported.
In California alone, there are an estimated 170,000 of these immigrant veterans living among full-fledged citizens. Of these, at least 30,000 of those are fully eligible for help to become naturalized citizens but have no idea how to take that step. Many do not even know they are not citizens, thinking it might have been some sort of automatic process on their return.
Those who have served honorably in the military but end up deported often are for the wrong reasons. They end up being convicted of minor crimes or drug use, both connected with post-traumatic stress disorders stemming directly from what they experienced in the military. They are also often severely depressed, both from their time in the military and for the challenges they faced on their return to U.S. soil. Yet the very nation they served while subjected to those stresses will not take care of them properly, and sends them back across the border.
One former deported veteran, Daniel Torres, was the first person to secure citizenship after he had been deported – and was out of the country. His situation is that he falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen, when he signed up to join the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon his honorable discharge, he tried to get work or attend school, but could not. So, he self-deported and attended law school in Tijuana instead. After a protracted legal pursuit, he finally was able to secure naturalized citizenship while living in Mexico.
Those that are like Torres, that lied to be a part of the U.S. military but honorably served in every respect, are one category of those who – despite the lie – deserve our respect and support in helping them formally become citizens.
A second group, larger still, are those who were promised citizenship as part of an arrangement to have them sign up for the military in the first place. Both groups put their lives on the line in return for being able to become Americans after they came back.
In an event held in San Diego on June 27, Daniel Torres along with Nathan Fletcher, a former California assemblyman and current chairman of Honorably Discharged, Dishonorably Deported, gathered together with Norma Chavez-peterson, executive director of the San Diego chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Rick Reyes of the Cal Vet Minority Veterans Division to call attention to the plight of these deserving veterans.
It was a major follow-up of a call to action that happened last summer when the ACLU first released a report disclosing the government’s failing to make sure those eligible veterans were naturalized while still serving in the military, as they had been promised.
Moreover, under President Trump orders are apparently now being considered to cancel contracts for as many as 1,000 foreign-born military recruits. That not only would shut down the contract to bring them on board the military in the first place, it would immediately set them up for accelerated deportation. All this of course would happen despite there having been, in many cases at least, an understanding that many of those recruits would be eligible for naturalization after returning home.
Considering all the other chest-thumping unelected President Trump has made about illegal immigrants allegedly being the cause of so much harm in the nation, things like this are likely to happen far more often. Information is breaking even as this article was written, that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) organization is getting more ‘feet on the street’ soon to push more migrants out of the country. Along with them will likely be a far higher than justified number of immigrant veterans also swept out by the same ‘new broom’.
The ACLU is helping by providing legal support for some of these immigrant veterans who are currently facing deportation. The “Honorably Discharged, Dishonorably Deported” organization will also assist via legal workshops it will hold this summer, to help guide immigrant veterans on how to obtain their citizenship.
The state of California is also stepping up to help as well. In the 2017-18 state budget, deported veterans with ties to California are eligible for monies to pay for legal services funding to help them with their immigration and naturalization cases. The state is also backing it with $45 million in its “One California” fund, monies explicitly earmarked for this purpose.