Most Americans won’t argue over an immigrant being deported back to his or her native country after receiving serious criminal charges. However, what if the immigrant was a veteran of the U.S. armed forces and was facing deportation over a crime so small it would usually result in minor penalties? This is the issue that was recently brought up at a Senate Judiciary Committee: whether legal U.S. immigrants should be permanently deported for minor offenses that are only classified as felonies under the current immigration code.
One person who has felt the impact of this law is a U.S. Army veteran who was permanently deported for a check fraud charge. After being honorably discharged from the military in 2000, the man started work as a contractor. The check he cashed was a $750 payment for a contracting job, which he claimed he didn’t know was a bad check. He accepted a plea deal to avoid the risk of a longer sentence, without realizing it would mean his deportation.
Now living in Mexico, he belongs to a support and advocacy group called Banished Veterans. The group believes there are between 8,000 and 40,000 deported American veterans around the world. Meanwhile, he hasn’t seen his American son, who lives in Los Angeles, since he was deported.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says these laws ignore the impact deportation can have on families and children, and violate human rights. Children of deported parents are often sent to American foster homes. But judges are unable to use discretion when deportation for certain minor crimes is mandatory under the law.
Many immigration rights activists would like to see the laws changed so the court would be able to rule on each case individually, and lower the tragic impact that comes from splitting up families.
Source: U-T San Diego, “Deportation policies result in banished veterans,” Beth Caldwell, April 4, 2013