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Aug-03-2009 13:46printcomments

American Combat Veterans Facing Deportation

Warning to Immigrants seeking military service, Get U.S. Citizenship Naturalization before joining the U.S. Armed Forces.


Jan A. Ruhman on Vets Day, 2008.
Photo courtesy: vvaw.org

(SAN DIEGO, Calif.) - A scandal of deception and broken promises of citizenship in exchange for military service to past immigrant veterans has been exposed. The DOD targeted 9,000 non-immigrants who have "status" (entered the US on a non-immigrant visa) and who temporarily reside in the US in a "pilot" military recruitment program designed to entice young dreamers, who have extended their visas one or more times, and are more educated than their countrymen without "status" who come seeking farm and day labor jobs and employment in the service sector, with promises of US citizenship for military service.

Not possible, was what came to my mind when I first read the anguished cry for help from the fiancee of just such a veteran in an email forwarded to me by Vetspeak Honcho Willie Hager. He had received it from an active VVAW Member of the San Diego Chapter who obtained it from a local reporter.

He asked if I could look into it to determine if it was credible or not before VetSpeak could consider running a story. What I heard from the fiancee of a USMC Gulf War I combat veteran, who was honorably discharged at the end of his first enlistment was, quite simply, unbelievable.

My subsequent research, done in cooperation with a dedicated and knowledgeable Immigration and Criminal Defense Attorney, our face to face interviews with veterans incarcerated in DHS/INS Prisons and on bond, after reviewing the details of the record of their arrest reports, and the transcripts of their court cases during the defining and development stages of this issue proved this one woman and this one case was, in fact, just the tip of the Iceberg of a national scandal of major proportions.

While holding open the front door to non-immigrants with promises of US citizenship in exchange for Military service, American combat veterans and cold war veterans who have served the nation, are being unceremoniously thrown out the back door and denied the US Citizenship that had been promised to them decades earlier.

At this very moment, all across America, veterans are being arrested, processed and deported to their country of birth at an ever increasing and alarming rate, often on over blown charges for property and drug offenses. At this point I think it is important to provide a definition of the word "veteran" and to point out exactly what a veteran is.

A veteran is a patriot, the dictionary defines patriot as "devoted love, support and defense of one's country." That is what America's Veterans of all wars do. They take an oath "to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, the bill of rights, our civil liberties, our freedoms. They go into harms way for us... prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice."

American Military veterans who have served our nation in times of war and peace have "quietly" been deported since 1996 when the Immigration Reform Act (IRA) was passed by the Republican Controlled Congress and "broadly" redefined Aggravated Felony (AG) and took away certain applications for relief.

This simple change in the definition of AG in the law has directly affected tens of thousands of veterans who served their nation. Quite simply, they are facing forced deportation or have in fact already been "quietly" and unceremoniously deported over the past 13 years.

A trail of lies has been uncovered at point of recruitment and in boot camps. Statements concerning US Citizenship being "automatic" were related by many veterans we interviewed. Other veterans, who were more educated, knew different and applied while in the military but then deployed to a combat zone and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) didn't have their application follow them. Many, who knew they had to apply, simply found that (as is the case with many veterans upon discharge, especially those suffering from PTSD), navigating the "system" is not psychologically or emotionally possible, for them.

At present, it is estimated that over 3,000 of our fellow veterans are incarcerated and face deportation in Department of Homeland Security/INS Prisons nation wide. They are being processed through court rooms in rented industrial parks that more closely resemble fast food franchises turning out lunch than justice.

Many are being held under "mandatory detention" with no option of bail or release while fighting their case. Each month the human misery and degradation suffered by these veterans, their families and loved ones continues to grow.

Many of them are in their mid to late 50's and served during the Vietnam War era. Many more are in their mid to late 30's and are vets who served in Gulf War I. Some served in Kosovo. Left unchecked this horror show of ingratitude and deception will include OEF & OIF Vets.

All of these veterans need your help. They are fighting this battle alone and against the unlimited resources and power of the government's legal system. A system that is processing them for "forced" removal from the country they love and call home. The country they were willing to fight to defend, and possibly die for.

Contact your Congressperson and demand justice for these patriots. Write Letters to the Editor helping to expose this national scandal. Identify DHS/INS Prisons in your area (there are over 300 DHS/INS or "private contractor" Prisons nationally) and help us gather names and other data to support a campaign to demand Congressional Action to put an end to this injustice. Reach out to a veteran's family locally and help publicize the issue.

Become involved locally by gathering data in your area, donating to the legal defense fund to help fight the battle in the DHS/INS Courts or in any other way please contact jan.ruhman@vetspeak.org.

Semper Fi.




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usn December 22, 2010 2:33 am (Pacific time)

Just the enlistment process to join the military, is the equivalent of doing 100 U.S citizenships. Nevermind the sacrifice that veterans especially combat veterans go through.The DHS is giving more weight to a N-400 form and an interview; than to military service. this is inmoral, unjust, and outrageous.I cannot believe there is people that actually agree with current immigration laws that devastate military veterans and their families.


ANONYMOUS June 2, 2010 8:24 am (Pacific time)

Sad how some of our so called americans are walking around with 3 felonies for hideous crimes and us Veterans are being judged by one mistake. Get Real, Get Real ! and you Don, who probably still lives with Momma and Poppa ! !


STEVE H. August 6, 2009 4:19 am (Pacific time)

This is disgusting and un-American. Also the INS has not been in existance for about 5 years. Please get your facts straight.


Don August 5, 2009 10:35 am (Pacific time)

Veterans that become Aggravated felons have disgraced their service branch and have forfeited their chance for citizenship. No one feels sorry for them.

Editor: Well that's really nice that you can speak for everyone, though I don't honestly think you can.  Next time maybe just speak for yourself.  We know how easily people like yourself turn against those who served.


Monty August 5, 2009 8:55 am (Pacific time)

Being both a veteran and an Immigration Officer I have the luxury of seeing both sides of this issue. You note that these veterans are not citizens and are being kicked out of the country after convictions for aggravated felonies. In my opinion we do not need more criminals in this country and deportation is a valid option. If they were true patriots and loved this country so much they could have obtained citizenship as so many millions have done before them.


Anonymous August 5, 2009 8:51 am (Pacific time)

Anyone who wants to become a citizen of the US has to undergo a background check and prove that they have "good moral character," meaning, generally, that they haven't been arrested in the last five years, they pay their taxes, and have never been convicted of serious crimes such as murder and drug trafficking. The Immmigration and Naturalization Act gives benefits to those who have served honorably in the Armed Forces who are seeking citizenship or a greencard. It does not, however, give any special perks to those who have served less-than-honorably. The vast majority of less-than-honorable discharges from the military are related to some kind of bad conduct or criminal activity. But don't assume that dishonorable discharges are only for the worst offenders... even low-level drug charges (cocaine possession) can get a DD. While it is unfortunate that so many people have relied on the promises of citizenship in exchange for service, I just shake my head and wonder why they didn't read the fine print or get the whole package in writing before they signed. I'm willing to bet that when they signed their military contracts, there were good moral character clauses and all sorts of other things that explained that if you mess up, you lose the promised benefit. I mean, come on... would you really believe what a recruiter says at face value? Always get it in writing.


Still Serving 20+ August 5, 2009 8:22 am (Pacific time)

It's admirable when someone from another country voluntarily becomes a member in our military risking life and limb when our own may be unwilling. I fail to believe that these veterans have been placed in deportation proceedings without justification. By statute, the Immigration Service has to evaluate permanent residents' for criminal activity and if they meet the criteria for removal from our country, it's because they have violated the statute. If the individual being considered for such removal is a veteran, I would think that as a veteran, we would expect him/her to know better and not have gotten caught up with a criminal conviction. That's not what we expect from our service men. Are you suggesting that simply because you are a veteran you should be exempt from immigration laws. If so, why stop there, lets place veterans above all laws. Get real!!


Anonymous August 4, 2009 9:16 am (Pacific time)

For most, the type of discharge is a highly important matter, except for those who have had less than an honorable, which is a very tiny minority.

Editor: In the early 1980's they were throwing people out of the Corps faster than you could say Ooh rah.  I take no stock in the decisions of the dog-eat-dog world of the U.S. military and I have known many people who were discharged under less than Honorable conditions who are and were very good and qualified professionals.  


Anonymous August 3, 2009 8:45 pm (Pacific time)

The writer utilizes hyperbole in defining a VETERAN. Such an individual is a person who served on active duty in the Armed Forces and was discharged or released there from under conditions other than dishonorable. Nonetheless it is outrageous that thousands of immigrants would honorably served our country in the military, and then be jailed and deported at the end of their service. An Absolute Outrage!

Editor: No offense, but a veteran is any person who ever served in uniform, end of story.  FYI, only a tiny handful of people actually receive a Dishonorable Discharge; generally they are associated with major crimes.  More commonly,  people receive Bad Conduct Discharges (Big Chicken Dinner) and General Under Other than Honorable conditions.  In reality, the military removes people for the worst reasons and a veteran's type of discharge is not a very important matter.

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