Saturday, July 20, 2024

Two Latino Marine Veterans Fight Deportation

For Valente and Manuel Valenzuela, both Marine Corps Vietnam veterans, face deportation and are currently fighting to stay in the only country they have known their whole lives.

Valente decided to go into exile in Mexico while Manuel has become an activist fighting against their deportation, taking their case to the White house.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act, which made crimes including misdemeanors grounds for deportation.

When the Valenzuela brothers returned from their deployment in Vietnam, they struggled to readjust back to the civilian life, and they were later diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This led them to commit several misdemeanors for which they pleaded guilty. Resulting in a deportation notice for both.

Mariela Sagastume, an attorney, states that “it is a misconception that serving in the U.S. military automatically confers citizenship. Very often, service members are assured that all of their citizenship paperwork will be taken care of (by the government). In fact, noncitizen veterans must still go through the naturalization process.”

Currently, there is no official number of deported veterans, many of whom have been sent to their non-origin country, making them susceptible to homelessness or substance abuse.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to begin the process of allowing undocumented deported veterans to return to the U.S.

“Together with our partner, the Department of Veterans Affairs, we are committed to bringing back military service members, veterans, and their immediate family members who were unjustly removed and ensuring they receive the benefits to which they may be entitled,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

For now, Manuel is safe from deportation but at any moment, the U.S. government can file a motion to continue the efforts to deport him.