Paul Cox / The Volunteer: The American Lincoln Brigade – 2018-01-19 01:35:25
Disposable People: Deporting US Veterans
Paul Cox / The Volunteer: The American Lincoln Brigade
(November 19, 2017) — The plight of the non-citizen veterans of US military service who have been deported stands as a small but telling example of how our country falls far short of living up to its promises.
This is the era of Bad Faith. The plight of non-citizen veterans of US military service who have been deported stands as a small but telling story. It is one more example of how our country falls far short of living up to its promises of justice and fairness, much less empathy and compassion — or even the dulcet promises of military recruiters.
While every case has its specifics, a typical deported veteran was a legal permanent resident (“green card” holder) when recruited or drafted into our military, often with promises of automatic or streamlined citizenship. He — though a few are women — served at least one enlistment (or even made a career of military service), deployed to a combat zone at least once, and received an honorable discharge.
He later ran afoul of the law, was convicted, and imprisoned or given probation. After serving his time, he was handed over to Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and shipped back to the country of his birth.
These veterans, who served as long ago as the Vietnam War or as recently as last year, are now stuck in a country they may have left as infants; some do not even speak the language. Separated from their families in the United States, they often have no family, support, or resources, and live in dire circumstances.
Miguel Hernandez, a legal permanent resident, joined the US Army in 1970, served a tour in South Korea, and was honorably discharged in 1973. He later became a barber in Riverside, but his life after the military was marred by alcohol. After a DUI and a conviction for bootlegging movies, ICE deported him in June 2017, to Tijuana.
His sister brought him clothes from Riverside, and other deported vets helped him find a place to live and jobs as a barber and janitor. Now clean and sober, he is small man at 5’4″ and 140 lbs, and dresses neatly for his work. On his way to work last month, he was accosted by thugs who wanted his nice clothes, beaten, and left with a shattered femur.
He is eligible for care from the Veterans Administration, but the nearest VA hospital is across the border in La Jolla. His sister enlisted Congresswoman Norma Torres (D-CA-35th) to get him to the VA hospital via ICE’s Humanitarian Parole program, but they denied it.
Other deported veterans and Veterans For Peace supporters have since raised the funds for the needed operation to stitch his bone back together, but he is still in Tijuana, jobless, broke, and recuperating without benefit of the extraordinary rehab care the VA can provide our veterans.
Throughout our history, the United States has enlisted non-citizens to help fight our wars. Many men and women, living here legally but not citizens, have stepped up, often with false promises from recruiters of accelerated — or automatic — paths to citizenship.
Immigrants currently represent about 13.5 percent of the United States population. They constituted 18 percent of the Army soldiers in World War I and 43 percent of the Union Army during the Civil War. Immigrants currently represent 5 percent of those in the armed forces and about 8 percent of Army recruits last year.
The ACLU estimates that there are around 300 US veterans deported to countries around the world; many are sent to Mexico and Central America. Approximately 30 currently live near Tijuana with perhaps that many more in other border towns.
Even with honorable discharges, and service connected health problems, none of them can get to the Veterans Administration hospitals in the UNITED STATES for the medical care for which they otherwise qualify.
There are now five bills in Congress to address aspects of this bizarre and unfair process. However, only one bill, by Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3d), H.R. 1405 — Veterans Visa and Protection Act of 2017 will lead to cancellation of the deportation for some of the veterans, excluding those convicted of violent or national security felonies.
While some deported vets were convicted for violence, any extenuating circumstances, such as severe PTSD, cannot be taken into account under this bill, if it even passes in its current form. Still, this legislation would help many deported veterans to get back to the country they put their lives on the line for, and it deserves our support.
The other four bills (H.R.s 386, 2759, 2760, 2761) address the DoD’s policies in the future but do not help the current cohort of deported veterans. Please urge your congressperson to co-sponsor these bills, but especially H.R. 1405.
Veterans For Peace has a new chapter in Tijuana, the Baja Mexico Chapter 986, that opened the Deported Veterans Advocacy Project a block from the border. Its purpose is to help veterans with services and information at the very moment they are ejected from the United States.
They can use donations to keep the house open, advocate for deported veterans, and to provide legal advice and direct assistance to these men and women who are being treated so very shabbily by our government. They are currently raising funds specifically to send deported veterans to the School Of Americas Watch (SOAW) gathering in Nogales, Arizona, for their annual gathering to draw more attention to the issue.
Paul Cox is a recovering Marine of the Vietnam War, and member of Veterans For Peace. He lives in Berkeley with his family and chickens.
The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) is an educational non-profit dedicated to promoting social activism and the defense of human rights. ALBA’s work is inspired by the American volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Learn more at our website, http://www.albavolunteer.org/.
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