As Donald Trump’s presidency continues, he has begun to realize that the problems America faces aren’t as simple as he once thought. This realization may once again be making itself apparent as the president is faced with the strife of deported veterans.
Under President Trump, illegal immigration is at a seventeen year low. Due to an Executive Order signed by the President in January, ICE has seen greater freedom in who they can arrest and deport, as the order lowers the bar on who can be targeted for deportation. This lead to immigration-related arrests increasing by a shocking 40% in early 2017. Within the same period, illegal immigrants who had no prior criminal records faced a greater threat of arrest and deportation, with 10,800 of those arrested having no prior criminal convictions, up from 4,200 during the same time last year.
However, there have been some individuals caught in the crossfire that have been largely ignored by both sides of the aisle: Veterans and Gold-Star Families.
In 2010, Hector Barajas, a veteran paratrooper for the US Army, was deported. In 2002, Barajas was sent to prison for three years on charges of discharging a firearm from a vehicle. After serving his time, he was deported. After re-entering the United States illegally, Barajas was again deported.
Since his 2010 deportation, Barajas has set up a two-story apartment in Tijuana which he and other deported veterans have called “The Bunker.” The apartment serves as a temporary place for deported vets to stay while they get back on their feet and get used to the new country in which they now reside. Barajas, in an interview with CNN, guessed that around 40 veterans have passed through The Bunker since its inception. Though these deportations are not specific to the current administration, new deportations of veterans and gold star families could very well be attributed to President Trump.
In February, Olivia Segura, a Gold Star Mother, carried the American flag that had been draped over her daughter’s coffin and her daughter’s picture through a Congressional office building. She was there for a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to see if veterans and gold star families who were legal permanent residents (also known as green card holders) could receive exemptions for their families from the deportation orders which many of them faced.
Segura’s daughter, a medic, died in 2007 when she was transporting a soldier to another base in Kuwait. Her vehicle was attacked by civilians, and she was killed in a vehicular rollover. Segura’s husband, in 2010, was arrested on a drunk driving charge, which also revealed an arrest for an illegal drug purchase from his past.
The veterans who met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that day received their deportation orders while the Obama Administration retained control, through Democratic members of Congress are now attempting to appeal to President Trump’s affinity toward veterans so that changes can finally be made to what they consider a broken system.
HR 1470, proposed by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), which has 51 Democrat cosponsors in the House, would ensure that veterans who commit non-serious crimes would not be deported. Separate bills proposed on the issue would allow deported veterans to come back to the US for medical treatment and would guarantee that non-citizen servicemen/servicewomen receive instruction on how to go through the naturalization process.
The hard sell is that many of the veterans and gold star family members who are deported are deported for two reasons: They committed a crime while being a legal permanent resident (green card holder), or they never went through the proper process to apply for citizenship.
Many of those who didn’t apply for citizenship while serving; something made leagues easier if one is a service member, say that they forgot or thought that they didn’t need to. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, deported veteran Edwin Salgado’s deportation came as a surprise, as he thought that veterans couldn’t be deported. In a statement to the Tribune, Salgado said; “One way or another, I’ll find my way back [to the United States].”
When confronting this issue; there will always be two fundamental questions; should veterans receive a special privilege if they break the law? If a veteran never bothers to apply for legal residency or citizenship; should he or she be given leeway? Undoubtedly, these questions will cause intense debate among lawmakers in the coming months.
If the proposed legislation reaches his desk, it all ultimately comes down to President Trump. Will his tough stance on illegal immigration win the day? Or will his love for veterans force him to make yet another concession on his illegal immigrant tough talk?