Immigrants have been in the ranks of various branches of the U.S. Military since the Revolutionary War. And historically it has been a common path for many immigrants to come to this country to obtain their citizenship or to get a foothold in the United States through serving in the military.
If you go to any recruitment office today and say you are an immigrant most likely you will be presented with a picture of a bright future after your service, which will include citizenship. The same promises were made to all of the veterans who later found themselves in an unimaginable situation: being deported from the country they served. Some thought the citizenship would come automatically with military service. Some claim they were naturalized during their military service but don’t have the means to prove it now.
Until 1996 there hasn’t been any record of veterans being deported from the United States. After Congress passed new immigration laws in 1996 and expanded the list of offences which made non-citizens eligible for deportation, some veterans fell victim to these new laws. Before 1996, the immigration judges had greater power to be lenient to some groups including veterans and could stop the deportation procedures. However, after the passing of these new immigration laws, once the deportation process has started there was almost no legal leeway for the person to stay in the United States, including those who have served.
Felix Peralta Junior, Army Veteran, deported 19 years ago for assault on a police officer
I’m in distress. Help me. Take me back, yeah, I messed up but I did my time. I always worked. Give me a chance to
go back, I’ll keep working, I’m older, I’m wiser, my kids are grown up. Help me. I just want to go see a Dodgers game. I just wanna go see the Dodgers play. Let me come back.
With the creation of Homeland Security in 2002 and forming of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2003, the situation for the veterans who have committed any crime that fell under the “aggravated felony” category had worsened as the total number of removals has grown.
Realizing they were deporting veterans, ICE has created guidelines in place regarding those who served in the U.S. Military. Those policies were meant to ensure that immigration enforcement officials take into consideration the military service of noncitizen veterans facing deportation. However, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that it “did not consistently follow its policies involving veterans who were placed in removal proceedings.”
According to the limited data provided by ICE, approximately 250 veterans were placed in deportation proceedings from 2013 through 2018, and 92 had been removed from the country, though this number is most likely much higher. GAO established that others might have gone unaccounted for because of ICE’s failure to track them. Eighty-five per cent of deported veterans were legal permanent residents and 26 attempted to gain citizenship, according to the GAO report.
Mario Rangel, Army Veteran, deported 12 years ago for felony drug possession
I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for us. I really don’t. We’re all men. We’re all responsible. We don’t want to be going to the US and be a burden to nobody. We just want another chance. Most of us have paid for our mistakes. Most of us know what we did wrong. And most of us know what we need to do to become a part of the community again, to be able to offer something, to be that guy again, that veteran, that patriot and not to be a bad guy. Cause some of us don’t want to be a bad guy any more. Some of us never wanted to be that bad guy, but just were put in the situation. We’re asking for a chance to be a good guy again.