According to the report, many of the soldiers, whose service dated back to the Vietnam War, were deported after facing charges for minor misdemeanors – which can be deportable offences – and courts were not allowed to consider military service.
“By requiring deportation and stripping immigration courts of the power to consider military service, the United States government abandons these veterans by expelling them to foreign countries at the moment when they most need the government’s help to rehabilitate their lives after service,” Bardis Vakili, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of California, said in a press release. “This is a tragic and disgraceful example of how broken our immigration system is.”
The report alleges that the men were entitled to naturalisation while in the US due to their time spent in the military, but the federal government did not work to guarantee they received it.
A spokesperson for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told the Los Angeles Times that deportations of men with service records were considered rather deliberately.
“Any action taken by ICE that may result in the removal of an alien with military service must be authorized by the senior leadership in a field office, following an evaluation by local counsel,” Virginia Kice told the Times in a statement. “ICE specifically identifies service in the US military as a positive factor that should be considered when deciding whether or not prosecutorial discretion should be exercised.”
However, they said they could not respond to the report specifically because officials had not had the chance to review it.
The report recommends ICE to restore judicial discretion to consider military service in deportation hearings, reopening neglected naturalisation applications, and provide legal representation to US military involved in removal processes.
“The United States should continue to fulfill this country’s commitment to honour and care for these veterans, just as these veterans fulfilled their commitment to serve our country honourably to keep us safe,” US Army vet and president of SEIU Local 221, David Garcias, said in the ACLU’s release.
“They spent their lives in the United States and honourably served this country, only to be treated harshly and unjustifiably punished based solely on where they were born.”