This weekend, people have been posting all over social media about their thankfulness for the brave men and women who have served in the varying branches of the United States military. Many temporary profile pictures are black and white photos of long-dead but still young ancestors in their new military garb. American flags are flying high this weekend. However, no one ever discusses the veterans who have no access to their benefits and can’t celebrate the day with those they fought with. These are the deported veterans.
Let that sink in: Deported. Veterans.
Daniel Torres is one such veteran. His story is simple enough. He came to the United States when he was a minor and overstayed his visa. He actually served in the Marine Corps as an undocumented immigrant. Once the Marines found out about his “illegal” status, he self-deported to Mexico. He said,
I couldn’t legalize my status, even as a veteran. I couldn’t get a job. I couldn’t do anything.
Others found themselves with legal problems that resulted in their deportation. They now find themselves in Mexico trying to get back to their families and the place they consider their home. According to Torres,
The tragedy of the situation is that in a majority of the cases, these veterans get in trouble because they have problems with PTSD, with alcohol, with drugs and these problems stem from their service with the military.
These are the same problems many veterans face, these men were just unlucky enough to be considered illegal.
These people are told that by serving in the military they can become American citizens. They are told that from the time they enlist. However, many do not follow through with the steps that need to be taken to become citizens. They assume that they are automatic citizens since they put their lives on the line for the United States.
As long as these veterans were honorably discharged, they are still entitled to VA benefits. However, with their status and current living situations, access to those benefits is nearly impossible. They still suffer from PTSD brought on by their time in the military, they still have health issues that need to be addressed, but they have been deported.
Why is there no one in the military designated to help these veterans with the steps needed to achieve legal citizenship? As a nation, how can we be alright with sending these people, totaling around 250 in July 2016, to a place they do not consider home, that they never fought for and where they cannot access the desperately-needed benefits they sacrificed for? If they are good enough to lay down their lives for us, shouldn’t they be good enough to call brother or sister?
America should hang her head in shame.