Profile of a support house in Tijuana for deported U.S. servicemen
September 27, 2014 1:40 PM   Subscribe

"Barajas and the veterans staying with him are establishing a new life in Tijuana — a life after deportation. Their stories are similar: Each was honorably discharged from the military, but was later charged with a deportable offense — for example, drug possession, discharge of a firearm or perjury...Most have spent the vast majority of their lives in the United States and are now starting over in a country they barely know." (Aj Jazeera)
posted by d. z. wang (8 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, shows what i know. I'm not actually surprised this is a common thing, but i was of the understanding that starship troopers style, if you served in the US military it was like the french foreign legion or something. As in, you got full on uppercase-C Citizenship out of the deal.

Was it ever that way?
posted by emptythought at 1:54 PM on September 27, 2014

The DREAM Act would have provided legal residence and a path to citizenship to anyone who was brought to the US illegally as a child if they went to college for two years or served two years in the military, but it was killed in Congress.
posted by Itaxpica at 2:01 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

i was of the understanding that starship troopers style, if you served in the US military it was like the french foreign legion or something.

There can be an expedited process, but it is not an automatic serve and you get papers deal.

Our deportation policy and procedures are horrifyingly terrible; this is just one small view into one small piece of the awfulness.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:04 PM on September 27, 2014

Was it ever that way?

Filipinos who served in World War Two, but that was a special law and had a bunch of history behind it. Can't think of anything else in American history. Which is not to say no, only that I don't know.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:05 PM on September 27, 2014

USCIS fact sheet on naturalization through military service. I think if you enlist or accept a commission today, emptythought is basically correct.

The "good moral character" requirement sounds like a backdoor for all sorts of exclusion, but my understanding is that the standards of morality used for immigration are similar enough to the standards used for USMC enlistment that very few Marines are actually denied citizenship on basis of their moral character. Would be happy to be corrected by someone with more direct knowledge, though.
posted by d. z. wang at 2:41 PM on September 27, 2014

As in, you got full on uppercase-C Citizenship out of the deal.

One would think that seeing military service on your records when you're faced with something like this--or when applying for citizenship--would at least get you some deference from the people doing the paperwork wherever they get to exercise personal judgment & discretion. Just like "going to get persecuted if sent back home."

Obviously, that doesn't always count for much. :(
posted by scaryblackdeath at 6:22 PM on September 27, 2014

Shameful. Those responsible for this state of affairs — and we all know who they are — should literally be ashamed of themselves. Sadly, they appear to be so un-self-aware that they regard these kind of outcomes as a victory. Since obviously these veterans aren't Real American™ material.

God Bless America.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:05 PM on September 27, 2014

I think Nolo's page on military qualification for citizenship explains it a little better. There was never an automatic "here's your discharge, soldier, here's your citizenship papers" thing, but you definitely had a streamlined application process including being able to skip the green card, or the five-year waiting period, altogether if that applied to you. It helped if you served in war (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf, and the War on Terror, still officially happening). But regardless, three things had to happen:

* Complete at least basic
* Apply and follow through with naturalization
* Honorably complete your service

The issue here is that, for whatever reason, these vets did not actually get naturalized. It's hard for me to sympathize with them for that reason. That's what would have prevented them from being deported. I am sure they all have different sorts of reasons for not going through the process when it would have been convenient and possible, but at the same time there's a reason that the protections of citizenship are there and, for good or ill, the deportation for criminal acts laws. (And unlike during the application process, I don't believe that CIS has much discretion here. Immigration status is explicitly outside of due process and being deported is not punishment, but withdrawal of a privilege.)

Maybe there should be an out for veterans, but there isn't, and it's not like this is a secret. They had an opportunity which they declined and must suffer at least some consequence.
posted by dhartung at 11:12 PM on September 27, 2014

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