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THE VETERAN

Page 32
Download PDF of this full issue: v39n1.pdf (18.1 MB)

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American Combat Veterans Facing Deportation

By Jan A. Ruhman

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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.

Jan A. Ruhman on Vets Day, 2008.

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.


Jan A. Ruhman is the San Diego contact for VVAW.


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