Another blatant example of the injustices caused by the current United States immigration policies has been brought to light recently when it was reported that many United States veterans, who served in active duty overseas have been deported to Mexico often for minor offenses. Many of these men who served in wars from the Korean to the war in Iraq, risking their lives for our country, are now living in squalor in Mexico without any help or assistance from the U.S. government. Some of the reasons for their deportation are as minor as getting into a bar room brawl, writing a bad check or possession of marijuana. The reason the United States Department of Homeland Security is able to deport them is that they were not United States citizens at the time they had their problems with the law.
Most of the deported veterans were lawful permanent residents at the time they served in the U.S. military. According to the Department of Defense, approximately 5,000 non-U.S. citizens enlist in the military on a yearly basis. The U.S. government does not require United States citizenship in order to serve, only lawful permanent residence (Green Card). One of the benefits for these green card holders is that service in the military helps to speed up the process towards U.S. citizenship.
Under the current immigration law, a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude or CIMT is a term used loosely to categorize a number of criminal offenses from misdemeanors to felonies. A lawful permanent resident, even if a veteran of foreign wars, can be deported for committing a CIMT. The U.S. government’s priority is the deportation or removal of criminal individuals from the country, however, they do not take into consideration an individual’s service in the U.S. military. Immigration advocates argue that their service, which includes risking their life for the country, should be taken into consideration when considering deporting a veteran. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) argues that they would consider military service as a factor in determining removal, however, the ultimate decision for deportation rests with a federal immigration judge, not ICE.
Once these men are deported back to their country of birth they may not have any family members left or any other connection to the country. They could also face criminal charges for serving in the U.S. military and potentially lose their entitlement to their original citizenship.
In Tiajuana, Mexico, a Deported Veterans Support House has been established in the Otay Centenario area to help these deported individuals. The building, warmly referred to as “The Bunker” continues to show signs of U.S. patriotism despite the cruel reality that necessitated its establishment. The U.S. flag, along with photos and military memorabilia decorate the halls. Many men crossing the border at San Ysidro find themselves welcomed and wind up living there, if only temporarily, following their deportation from the United States. The Bunker, along with a nonprofit organization helps support these deported individuals through counseling services.
These veterans, who are often eligible for benefits under the Veterans Administration, are not able to utilize these services, due to their deportation. Many need medical, psychological and addiction intervention for injuries sustained during their service. Sadly, they are blocked from receiving care, since they are physically beyond the borders of the U.S.
The most ironic and atrocious twist of all is that these men are entitled to military burials and can be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, permitting them entry into the U.S. only after they are deceased.