Perhaps no deportation stories are sadder and more shocking than those involving veterans of the United States’ own military who are deported from the US after laying down their very lives for the country they love. But even the brave men and women who bear arms in the name of the US are not immune from the long reach of ICE’s arm.
Such was the case Of Jose Segovia Benitez, an immigrant from El Salvador who arrived in the US at the age of 3 and joined the Marines at 18. He always considered the US to be his home. He served proudly in combat in Iraq, earning an honorable discharge after five years of service in 2004.
Upon his discharge, Segovia, who suffered a brain injury that left him angry and depressed, began to exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) . As so many PTSD sufferers do, he began drinking, and subsequently fell into legal trouble, serving time for DUI, domestic abuse and other felony crimes.
Despite being a legal permanent resident when he entered military service, and although he was in the midst of the naturalization process while serving in Iraq, Segovia’s US citizenship was never granted. When Segovia walked out of prison in January of last year, he was detained by ICE agents and sent to the Adelanto ICE Processing Center to await deportation due to his criminal activity as a non-citizen. He remains there still, his case on appeal.
The now 37-year-old Segovia is just one of the thousands of vets that are facing similar situations around the country. The exact number is hard to determine, although the Congressional Hispanic Caucus estimated in 2017 that close to 3,000 former vets have been forcibly removed from the US in recent years.
At least two legislators say that it’s unfair to deport the very veterans who provided loyal service to our country. Congressman Don Young from Alaska and Vincente Gonzalez from Texas are reintroducing HR 1078, the Repatriate Our Patriots Act, which seeks to prohibit such deportation of honourably discharged non-citizen veterans, despite their criminal pasts. The act also looks to expedite the naturalization process of those vets who have already been deported, permitting them to undergo the process from their home countries.
Non-citizens have served in the US military in great numbers throughout much of recent history. In World War I, 18 percent of military members were immigrants. Around 5,000 green card holders or lawful permanent residents apply to join the military each year. From 1999 through 2010, around 80,000 non-citizens joined the US military, with 24,000 non-citizens on active duty in 2012, according to USCIS.
If you are a non-citizen facing deportation issues, you are not alone. Familia America Immigration and our green card lawyer in Salt Lake City can help. We are advocates for our clients, with the ultimate goal of legitimizing your citizenship. Give our team a call at 801-656-9605 or click here to start the process of becoming a legal resident of the United States.