A 37-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico thought joining the military would lead to automatic U.S. citizenship. That's why he served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army from 1995 through 2001. But when the man ran into trouble with the law in 2004, he dream quickly turned into a nightmare. The man was jailed and then deported back to Mexico where he had no family or friends to speak of.
Not only that, the man had no way of collecting his veterans benefits, compensation he earned for his service in the military. Realizing that there were likely other veterans in his same situation, the man started the Deported Veterans Support Home in a suburb of Tijuana. The home provides food, shelter and access to Internet and phones to veterans who have been deported from the United States.
The 37-year-old said he doesn't think it's fair that he was not given citizenship after serving in the Armed Forces. He said he believed he became a citizen when he took the oath in front of the United States flagged and volunteered to risk his life for the country. Unfortunately, this is a misunderstanding held by many undocumented immigrants who join the military.
And while there are many benefits for veterans -- even those who are non-citizens - there is no way of obtaining those benefits after being deported. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it does not keep a record of how many veterans have been deported, but the 37-year-old said his research suggests the number is around 12,000.
A June 2011 memo from the ICE director stated that military service is a factor that can be taken into consideration in deportation cases. "Whatever action from ICE that can result in the expulsion of military veterans, needs to be authorized by a field office and evaluated locally," it stated.
In the wake of the memo, ICE says that it considers deportations involving veterans on a case-by-case basis. That is why an effective deportation defense argument is so important in these cases.
Source: Fox News, "US Veterans in Limbo After Being Deported to Mexico," Oct. 25, 2012.