Sunday, December 5

In New York, legal “weapons” are designed to shield the deportation of immigrant veterans and their families.


The commemoration of Veteran’s Day in 2021, not only has the weight of the tradition of paying tribute to those who have rendered some military service to the country, but it also coincides with a moment when a series of “reflectors” are targeting obstacles to immigration legalization, and even threats of deportation, those who have been active members of the Armed Forces, but were born abroad, continue to suffer.

The new legal “armament” has three objectives: In New York, a law is advancing in the State Assembly that would give supporting veterans and active personnel to secure their immigration status. In the Big Apple audiences in the City Council hear proposals to bring this community closer to legal services. And some voices in Congress are trying to push for legislation that reaches out to those who have even been deported.

“For the first time we are seeing that they are running very specific initiatives, to offer support to immigrant veterans and their families. This group suffers doubly from the consequences of a broken immigration system. Deportations have not stopped. But the important thing is that this drama is becoming visible in New York ”, he argues. Cesar Vargas, a lawyer and a member of the Armed Forces who is part of a network of activists that started a “War front” against the barriers that this community has for its path to citizenship.

Vargas, who He came from Mexico as a five-year-old boy, He experienced firsthand the rigors of being an immigrant soldier. And he starred in a long journey of almost three decades to achieve his naturalization.

Now, the activist tries to weave threads with various coalitions to get New York City to be the vanguard in creating a specific protection system for immigrant veterans and their families. In his view, this tragedy has been brought to the table like never before, but there is still much to do.

“The City Council recently heard, for the first time in history, in a hearing the problems facing this community, which goes far beyond the mental health, housing and unemployment dramas. The issue at hand is to put a stop to the deportation and the shadows of the illegality of these immigrants ”, he stressed.

Based on the figures managed by activist César Vargas, only 10 immigrant veterans have received support from the City’s Aid Services for these groups since 2017. (Photo: F. Martínez)

Several weapons on the “front”

According to Vargas’ balance, in the New York City Office of Veteran ServicesSince its creation in 2017, “only 10 cases of immigrants have been dealt with”. A number that seems insignificant if you take into account that based on the Census Bureau in the five counties they live at least 138,000 veterans.

To date, the City does not have a clear balance of how many veterans and their families may be at risk of deportation or they are in legal limbo to stay in the country, highlights Vargas.

“The reality of these servers is very different when they come from a family that is an immigrant without papers. Because some trends indicate that being on certain war fronts is a double-edged sword that eventually makes them more vulnerable to having criminal records, which are later a great limitation to legalize”, He stressed.

The other “trench” in this battle of “precision” lies in the State Assembly, where a bipartisan agreement reached last June opens the doors for a law that would guarantee more support to the families of New York veterans and military personnel. active for adjust your immigration status.

The Measure A4660A which advanced to the Senate Rules Committee and is sponsored by Colombian-American Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, was written in honor of Alex Ramón Jimenez, a sergeant of Dominican origin, born in New York, who enlisted in the Army as a result of the attacks on the Twin Towers.

In his war mission he was taken into captivity in 2007 by the enemy army of Iraq, in Jurk. After was found dead.

Jimenez served in the infantry unit. He was 25 when he and other members of the Tenth Mountain Division’s Second Brigade they were ambushed, while patrolling the desert south of Baghdad.

Before leaving for this war, the young man of immigrant parents had been in the process of securing the legal status of his wife, who ended up facing a deportation order.

The case drew national attention and an Immigration Judge issued a temporary suspension of the process. Finally, the Department of Homeland Security exercised authority to grant “discretionary leave” to the veteran’s wife who died defending the country in a war.

The new law that is waiting to be finally approved and signed in the next session of the state Legislature, creates a program in New York that will help with legal support to relatives of foreign-born veterans, discharged veterans of the LGBT community and those in service.

“The path to obtaining US citizenship is not easy and not much support is given to these brave people seeking help with immigration matters. This bill will completely change this scheme, ”legislator Cruz explained to local media.

Veterans in general face health care and employment problems, but the issue of the unborn is now brought into focus. (Photo: AFP- Getty Images)

A high to deportations

Another bill is “cooked” in Congress that aims to prohibit deportation of military veterans, except if they have committed serious and violent crimes.

Members of the House of Representatives Don Young, (R- Alaska), and Vicente González (D- Texas) introduced the “Patriots Repatriation Act,” which would allow US military veterans deported for non-violent crimes to receive expedited consideration for permanent citizenship.

This draft follows another document introduced by the senator Tammy Duckworth (Illinois), that would require a new visa program for deported veterans to once again become legal permanent residents of the United States.

“If you are willing to risk your life to defend this great nation and our values, you should be able to become American citizens. It is unforgivable that those who risked everything to protect us, are subjected to the deportation process, ”Young explained when explaining the spirit of the legislation.

According to the organization American Legion which follows issues related to the quality of life of the military, between 2013 and 2018 92 veterans were expelled from the country.

“It is very likely that the actual number of deported veterans far exceed reported figures”Concludes the report.

1,000 deportees in 40 countries

The Joe Biden Administration announced last summer that it will begin allowing foreign-born veterans who were deported return to the United States.

“We are committed to bringing back military service members, veterans, and their immediate family members who they were unfairly expelled and to guarantee that they receive the benefits to which they may be entitled ”, commented Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of National Security.

For us, Robert Vivar, co-director of the United States Deported Veterans Unified Resource Center in Tijuana, said to The New York Times which estimates that there are at least a thousand deported military personnel living in almost 40 countries.

In recent years, at least 20 of them have been allowed to return, particularly those who have committed minor crimes such as driving under the influence of alcohol.

The legal path to deciding who can be readmitted could be very complicated: some of the veterans committed serious crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault and serious drug offenses.

Veterans in the Big Apple

  • 138,000 veterans reside in New York City according to data released by the Census Bureau.
  • 2% percent of the population of New York City serves or has been in the Armed Forces. About a third of them served in the Vietnam War era.
  • 17% of veterans in the Big Apple served in the Operation Desert Shield in August 1990 and September 11, 2001.
  • 1/5 of New York City veterans They served after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
  • 14,000 veterans of the Korean War in the city.
  • 4,941 people who served in the Second World War.
  • 90% are men and 71% are 55 or older.

The annual Veterans Day parade is back

  • This Thursday, November 11, 2021, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., after the pandemic restrictions, the Parade that celebrates the largest veterans in the country returns, organized by United War Veterans Council (UWVC) on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
  • The Parade will continue on its traditional route, exiting on 25th Street to 40th Street, featuring groups of veterans, military units, youth groups and the best high school bands in the country.
  • This year marks the 20th anniversary of September 11 and the Global War on Terrorism, as well as the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm.
  • The Data:

    • The Department of Veterans Services (DVS) of New York City connects service members, veterans, survivors, caregivers, and military families with the services of partner organizations, including veteran service organizations and government agencies through the platform VetConnectNYC .


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