Stories

Life After Deportation for US Veterans

December 28, 2017

By Marinee Zavala

Marco Antonio Chavez’s return to United States after being deported to Mexico has brought a mix of feelings for other formerly-commissioned members of the United States armed forces who have been deported.

Meanwhile in Mexico, the approximately 70 deported veterans now living in Baja California, patiently wait for their cases to be processed and their opportunity to return to the U.S.

For a group of deported veterans in Tijuana, Marco’s departure created more hope than sadness. Members of this association hope that one day each and every soldier who fought to defend the United States and was then cast out of the country may return home.

“We have worked on this for years and we will keep working until we bring home every veteran who has been deported, and we will continue working with families throughout the country to pressure Congress and this President to do the right thing,” said Norma Chavez, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

While Marco Antonio Chavez was walking along the edges of Tijuana toward the San Ysidro Port of entry, his Veteran brethren saw him leave with hope and amazement.

As he crossed the border, the veterans could be heard saying, full of hope and amazement, “he did it, he’s back across.”

His steps, both nervous and decisive, made history for the more than 200 Veterans exiled throughout the world according to the ACLU.

Although Chavez was the first U.S. Veteran officially deported and then allowed to return to the U.S., and have his legal residence fully reinstated, they hope that the pardon granted by Governor Jerry Brown to Hector Barajas and Erasmo Apodaca will lead to their enjoying the same fate, as well as to laws that will better protect future members of the Armed Forces who came to the U.S. from other countries and were honorably discharged after serving the country.

“There are several bills, particularly to change the system in the Armed Forces so as to provide a clear path to citizenship for those who serve and thus avoid the deportation of Veterans. So far, the legislation has been introduced, but it has not come to a vote yet,” ACLU’s Binational Liaison Esmeralda Flores said.

One of the key recommendations to any foreigner who comes to the U.S. and joins the Armed forces is to physically file for citizenship. A big part of the problem, they say, is that many people think that because the enlisted they automatically become citizens when they take their oath; however, the reality is that although they do qualify almost immediately, they must actually file for it.

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