Can return only in coffin
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of foreign-born U.S. military veterans who have been convicted of crimes and served their time in prison have been deported, despite living legally in the U.S. since childhood. They are dumped in the country of their birth – a country they may have no memory of, where a language they may not understand is spoken.
What kept those service members from filing for American citizenship when they could have, five years after getting a green card? One theme stands out: Many were told by recruiters and at boot camp that U.S. citizenship was automatic when they were honorably discharged from the military. Others came back from service overseas in no shape – physically or mentally – to deal with bureaucracy.
Where do we draw the line with deporting veterans? Immigrant lawbreakers who are not veterans are routinely deported for serious crimes. Does being a veteran and putting your life on the line for this country count for anything after you pay your debt to society? For a U.S. citizen, you do your time and you go free.
And what of the crimes these deportee veterans commit? Should a line be drawn to distinguish between nonviolent and violent crimes? Felonies can include any number of crimes, some more serious than others. Some misdemeanors can be interpreted as aggravated felonies when it comes to immigration and deportation.
Here’s the kicker: Deported veterans can’t come back – until they’re dead. If they were discharged under honorable conditions, they qualify for burial in a veterans cemetery and the government will kick in $300 to have the body returned. Additionally, veterans still qualify for benefits, but they can’t get here to claim them.
To learn more, go online and research “veterans deported.” Look up immigration law expert Margaret Stock, a retired military police lieutenant colonel, and read some of the stories she tells.
Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to [email protected]. © 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.