As we’re out and about on this long weekend, having BBQs and cookouts, maybe enjoying some sun at a lake or on a beach, many of us often pause to think about those who gave their lives to service. We acknowledge those who have sacrificed for this country, many of them our own family members, in order to preserve the principles of an open and free society. But what happens when those who have served this country — and their families — are not met with respect but with ill-will, because of their citizenship status — or lack thereof?
LUChA recently held an event to bring to light such an issue on April 30th. We heard of stories in which a veteran, Israel, went into the military as a Legal Permanent Resident, but is currently at risk of falling out of status. Viridiana, a DREAMer, struggled to visit her husband on base in Yuma, AZ, questioning her extensively as if she were a potential threat just because of her status, despite the fact that their marriage is well documented in the military’s files. Jesus recently served, and declined to return for another tour of service because his sister was detained in Arizona and his family needed him. These are just some of the stories and realities that men and women in service have faced in the past, or are currently facing.
As the immigration debate’s timetable ticks to a disappointing close fraught with inaction and political posturing, LUChA, alongside Bibles, Badges and Businesses and Arizona State University’s School of Transborder Studies highlighted a critical piece to what it means to be a citizen — and what it means for Veterans when they and their families are caught in the cycles of the US’s broken immigration system. Listening to the stories of those from the panel discussion, it could not be clearer the urgency of this matter, which is not just an immigration issue, but a veterans’ rights issue as well.
If there are two things that are clear from event and discussion, they are as follows:
- Anyone who serves loves this country enough to take an oath to defend the US and its citizens, deserve adequate resources to ensure his/her family’s safety and longevity in this country. There are many veterans, even those with proper residency status, who have been deported since the Vietnam War. Veterans have given more of themselves than civilians will ever realize, and for this, they deserve the utmost protections under the law.
- This is one of the most underreported issues as it relates to Veterans’ Affairs, but one of the most important. Latinos in particular demonstrate a record of high enlistment into the military, though this issue extends to all immigrant communities. Since there is currently no formal mechanism in place to document all of the complexities that veteran families face with lack of status, deportations, and citizenship in an antiquated immigration system, too often they fall through the cracks and into the abyss of bureaucracy. The recent case of Cuban veteran Mario Hernandez is a prime example. You can view the original and follow-up stories via the New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1sGIA92; http://nyti.ms/1o7PkNB
So as the long weekend comes to a close and we get back to daily life, continue to remember what is laid on the Great Seal: E Pluribus Unum — Out of Many, One. Remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the opportunities we are afforded in this country as civilians, and in some way, model their service to make sure that all who do serve can also be afforded those opportunities.
To take a look at LUChA's recent event coverage, click here