Two San Diego war veterans are fighting the immigration process after being threatened with deportation. The brothers served honorably during the Vietnam War, and one was even decorated with a Bronze Star. Now in their 60s, the brothers are protesting against the United States government and fighting to stay in the country. Both men are embroiled in immigration hearings requiring that they mount a vigorous deportation defense just to stay in the country for which they previously placed their lives at risk in going to war.
Immigration authorities say veterans are generally viewed more leniently than others, but these two men also have criminal records. And the government is widening the types of crimes it targets as qualifying for deportation proceedings. The result is more immigrants needing deportation defense arising from previously overlooked misdemeanors such as shoplifting or some types of drunk driving offenses.
Immigration laws are said to make it easier for veterans to obtain United States citizenship. Green card holders have the potential to become American citizens in as little as two months. But in the past, the process took much longer. An arduous bureaucratic process as well as the procrastination of some immigrants perhaps intimidated by the process contributed to the delays.
The veteran brothers thought that when they were inducted into the military, they automatically became citizens. As a consequence, they never gave much thought to their immigrant status. Now, they believe they are being singled out even though they paid their dues through their military service during a time of war. Immigrant advocacy groups, attorneys and veterans estimate that the number of veterans deported, or in the process of being deported, ranges anywhere from several hundred people all the way up to 3,000.
Nevertheless, these men may face a long legal fight, and a well-prepared deportation defense may make the difference between staying and being forced to leave the U.S. The ironies of being an immigrant veteran in this country are harsh. If deported, they do have the right to return to the country but only for burial in a national cemetery.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Noncitizen veterans protest possible deportation to Mexico,” Richard Marosi, Feb. 18, 2012