By Debbie Gregory.
Immigrants serving in the United States military have deep historical roots. Non-citizens have fought with the United States Armed forces since the Revolutionary War, and offer greater racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity than citizen recruits. This diversity is particularly valuable given the military’s increasingly global agenda.
But now, the futures of those immigrants who have served and their families are in question.
Gold Star mother Olivia Segura grasped the box containing the flag that draped the coffin of her daughter, Ashley Sietsema, who was killed in November, 2007 while serving in Kuwait.
Ashley Sietsema’s father is under a deportation order.
Segura, other veterans and veterans’ families met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus hoping for exemptions from deportation for veterans who are legal permanent residents and their families, particularly for Gold Star families, families of military personnel killed in action.
Although President Trump has emphasized his focus is on deporting “criminals” he has vastly expanded the definition of what constitutes a criminal.
Some of the veterans being deported are legal permanent residents who become deportable after they committed a crime categorized as a felony under immigration law or because a conviction from their past emerged.
For many of these deported veterans, home is a place called the Bunker, a Tijuana support house for US military veterans, who have nowhere else to go when they land back in Mexico.
Veterans are subject to the same laws as everyone else when it comes to immigration. Anyone with a green card can be deported when they commit crimes. “Because they served the United States they do generate some sympathy from points of view that may not be generally pro-immigrant. But the fact is, the law is very much stacked against them.
According to advocates for immigrant veterans, soldiers who are legal permanent residents are not always connected with the naturalization process or even made aware of it. For some, their service does little to help their families remain in the United States.
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