Deported Veterans Advocates Discuss Ways To Help
Advocacy groups held a community forum in Kearny Mesa on Tuesday to discuss pending legislation and other initiatives to help veterans who have been deported from the U.S. or who could face deportation.
"It is a shame that the United States is getting rid of its most loyal people," said Daniel Torres, a former deported veteran who attended the public forum. "We were all willing to fight and some of us have killed for this nation."
Torres served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years before he was honorably discharged and later forced to leave the country. He was allowed to return to the U.S. last year with the help of the ACLU, which published a report earlier this year called "Discharged, Then Discarded," documenting the issue of deported veterans.
The Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana, known as "The Bunker," has identified more than 200 deported veterans since its inception in 2012.
Most veterans who are deported were lawful permanent residents who committed crimes after their service. People cannot enlist in the military unless they are in the country legally. But veteran advocacy groups say recruiters sometimes make exceptions to meet enlistment quotas.
Some people who serve in the military do not apply for citizenship even though their service qualifies them. Many of them erroneously believe they automatically become citizens when they enlist. About 24,000 noncitizens were in the military as of 2012, according to the ACLU.
Former state Assemblyman and Marine Veteran Nathan Fletcher started an organization to support deported veterans, called Honorably Discharged, Dishonorably Deported, which organized the forum with Partners for Progress. Fletcher said the military is meticulous in providing its service members with everything except information regarding their eligibility for citizenship.
“Here’s your will, here’s your power of attorney, here’s your shots, here’s your haircut, here’s your checking account, here’s how to swim. Like, here’s how to tie your shoes — literally everything and you would think somewhere along that process of all these legal things they could say and ‘oh here’s your immigration paperwork,'" he said.
The Senate is currently working on a package of bills that would help deported veterans as well as noncitizen veterans who could be facing deportation. Congressman Juan Vargas re-introduced it this year.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the Department of Defense is considering a plan to cancel the enlistment contracts of 1,000 recruits without legal immigration status. They were promised fast-tracked citizenship in exchange for urgently needed medical and language skills, but now they may be facing deportation.