CA Lawmakers Consider Legal Aid for Deported Vets


By Debbie Gregory.

The California legislature is considering AB 386, a bill introduced by State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher that would create a legal assistance fund for veterans who have been deported. The bill has been passed by the Assembly without any dissenting votes and now goes to the Senate.

Veterans who run afoul of the law can be deported after serving time in jail or prison because they’re not citizens.

“Immigrants who serve and fight for our country earn the right to become citizens. That’s common sense, it’s a powerful way to recruit bright and talented young men and women, and it’s federal law. But instead of keeping our promises, we’ve kicked these veterans out of the country they fought for,” Gonzalez Fletcher said. “They’ve earned the right to return to this country as Americans, and make restitution for their mistakes as Americans.”

“People make mistakes,” said Gonzalez Fletcher, noting that “a lot” of those mistakes are caused by post-traumatic stress disorder.

“When someone is willing to die for this country and give us everything that they have … we just thought it was time to figure out a way to get them back home,” she said.

In order to qualify for legal aid under the bill, a veteran would have to provide evidence of current or prior California residency, which could be graduating from a state high school, having a spouse or child currently living in California, or being stationed in the state for military training.

The Deported Veterans Support House, founded by Army veteran Hector Barajas in Tijuana, estimates that it has been in contact with over 100 veterans who have been deported.

Earlier this month, Gov. Brown pardoned three military veterans, including Barajas, who were deported, removing one obstacle to their return.

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez (R-Oceanside) supports the bill. As the co-chair of the Assembly’s Veterans Affairs Committee, the former Marine has tended to vote against legislation that would assist immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

But Chávez feels it’s a different matter when it comes to legal residents who served alongside citizens.

“These individuals were in the foxhole fighting together,” said Chávez. “Both of them were suffering the same horrors of combat together.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Immigrants Who Served In US Military Fight Deportation Orders

p1By 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.

We want to know what you think about this issue so please comment.