By Debbie Gregory.
A baby born on U.S. soil is automatically granted U.S. citizenship, guaranteed by the Constitution, even if the sole purpose of the parent being in the U.S. is to achieve that goal. So you would think that anyone who enlists in the U.S. military and serves this country would have earned the right to become a citizen.
In fact, joining the U.S. military has always been one of the fastest ways to get U.S. citizenship. About 8,000 troops with green cards became citizens that way last year alone.
But it doesn’t happen automatically. And unfortunately, veterans who did not go through the process of becoming citizens, if they get in trouble, can be deported.
Naturalization used to be part of basic training, but the laws changed. As a result, lots of green card holders went to Iraq and Afghanistan without becoming citizens.
The Obama administration has been aggressive about deporting immigrants who commit crimes, including veterans, although no one knows an exact number.
U.S. immigration law states that non-citizens who commit serious crimes forfeit their right to remain in the country. Deported veterans and their advocates say those who wear the uniform should be treated as U.S. citizens: punished for any crimes they commit, but not deported.
In an ironic twist, although deported veterans are banned for life, they are welcome to return when they are dead. Honorably discharged veterans, even deportees, are entitled to burial at a U.S. military cemetery with an engraved headstone and their casket draped with an American flag, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA will even pay $300 toward the cost of bringing a deportee’s remains to the United States.