Deporting foreign veterans goes against the American dream
For generations, serving our country has been a great honor and sacrifice. But for the growing number of deported veterans, that honor is bittersweet. Veterans are being used and discarded without any respect for their service to this country. Their hard work, sacrifice and loyalty has been repaid in deportation.
More than 500,000 veterans were foreign-born as of 2016. The plight of the deported veteran has come to light in the midst of Trump’s push for tighter immigration policy and higher deportation numbers.
For a country that boasts great military might, how it treats those who have served is embarrassing.
The phrase — deported veteran — is shocking for many who think that serving leads to a path to citizenship. When a recruit takes the oath of service, he swears loyalty to the United States. For many foreign-born, it is akin to taking the oath of citizenship. They put their lives on the line for a country they were not born in, along with natural-born service members, under the same oath.
Yet, the grim reality is the people who swore to protect America have been exiled from it.
In most cases, foreign-born veterans are not aware of current immigration law and think being in the military expedites their citizenship. The problem of deported veterans could have been mitigated if the government was clear that military service no longer grants automatic citizenship.
This has not been the case as the number of deported veterans continues to increase. After their service, foreign-born veterans struggle to adjust to civilian life and sometimes commit crimes that lead to deportation after serving their sentence.
Many, like Robert Salazar who served as a U.S. Marine in the 1990s, become addicted to drugs trying to adjust to civilian life. After serving a sentence for armed robbery, Salazar was deported to Mexico where he had not set foot since he was 3.
Every veteran, foreign-born or not, should have access to their medical or educational benefits. Veterans who have been deported have no access to their rightful benefits, and America is rewarding their service by relegating them to the shadows.
They are sent back to countries where they don’t have a home or a support system they can call on for help. They are alone. How can we say we’re a country who rewards loyalty and hard work if we deport those who serve?
In this polarized society, Congress is unable to act as immigration law becomes entangled in election year politics making the problem of deported veterans worse.
This problem continues to be exacerbated as the Pentagon considers canceling contracts for 1,000 foreign-born recruits without legal status, thereby exposing them to deportation.
Many of these deported veterans were soldiers who served honorably, ready to give their life for America. It’s the government’s duty to honor their service by giving them a path to citizenship. If you risk your life for our country, you should have the honor to become a citizen and remain within our borders.
Serving has always been an honorable and respected tradition for many families. There is a special promise between this country and those who have served it. Soldiers have taken part in that sacred promise, serving honorably and protecting our borders from outside threats so that we may live a peaceful life.
It’s a shame that years of putting your life at risk for a country you now call home counts for nothing if you are not born in it. It’s not only unfair, but it’s a broken promise at a shot of the American dream.
Opinion columnist Janet Miranda is a marketing junior and can be reached at [email protected]