Deported US vets in Mexico hope for return under Trump govt

By MARIA VERZA  TIJUANA, Mexico — After manning a machine gun on a combat helicopter as a U.S. Marine during the liberation of Kuwait, Antonio Romo came back to the United States traumatized by the death and carnage he saw. He says he turned to alcohol and narcotics to try to quiet the nightmares, and made multiple suicide attempts. With addiction, he fell into dealing, and was arrested for selling cocaine. And after getting out of prison, Romo was deported in 2008 to Mexico, from where he had migrated to Lynwood, California, illegally at age 12. Today he’s part of a group of dozens of U.S. military veterans, most of them former legal residents but noncitizens, who were deported after criminal convictions and who for years have tried to convince multiple administrations to let them return. They acknowledge committing serious crimes such as felony drug dealing, but argue that they did their time and being kicked out of the country amounts to being punished twice. Now these veterans are pinning their hopes on the new administration of Donald Trump, and their cause presents a sharp conflict for two of the new president’s stated priorities: Trump has promised to support the military and veterans; at the same time, he has also moved to ramp up deportations of immigrants in the United States illegally — particularly those convicted of crimes. “President Donald Trump has said that he supports veterans, but …” the 48-year-old Romo said, his voice trailing off. “We are Mexicans. … I don’t know.”   Continue reading

ACLU REPORT DETAILS HOW U.S. HAS FAILED DEPORTED VETERANS

  (SAN DIEGO) – The federal government’s failure to help naturalize immigrants serving in the U.S. military has led to the deportation of untold numbers of veterans, all of whom were entitled to become citizens because of their service, according to a report released today by the ACLU of California. The report, “Discharged, Then Discarded,” found that deported veterans were in the U.S. legally and sustained physical wounds and emotional trauma in conflicts as far back as the war in Vietnam. Once they returned from service, however, they were subject to draconian immigration laws that reclassified many minor offenses as deportable crimes, and were effectively banished from this country.   “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,” said Bardis Vakili, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of California. “This is a tragic and disgraceful example of how broken our immigration system is.” Much of the current problem dates back to punitive laws enacted nearly 20 years ago, and lawmakers’ unwillingness to fix a broken immigration system that has led to the deportation of veterans, torn families apart and left many living in fear. For veterans, all of whom served their time for their criminal convictions, deportation is a lifetime punishment that never would have happened if the government had ensured their right to be naturalized. The consequences of deportation include lack of access to necessary VA medical benefits that all veterans are entitled to regardless of immigration status, the report concludes. They suffer permanent separation from their families, including U.S.-born children.   Continue reading