Daniel Torres, an Iraq war veteran who was kicked out of the Marines for lacking legal status, has just been granted U.S. citizenship. Torres came from Mexico with his family and overstayed a temporary visa.
Torres was one of many undocumented immigrants who joined the U.S. military with fake documents and served overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many of those who serve are then deported when their lack of legal status is discovered.
Contrary to many media reports, Torres was not deported, but he was discharged and denied benefits. He tried to gain legal status afterwards, but his request was denied. Unable to better his life here, and fearing that he could be deported, he was forced to move back to Mexico.
But he continued his fight to return and has just been granted citizenship under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which grants naturalization to foreigners who serve in the military during times of hostility.
He is one of the lucky few who have won their fight for legal status. Like Torres, thousands of other immigrants, both legal and undocumented, join the U.S. military hoping it will allow them to gain citizenship. But this is often not the case.
There is also a mental health component to this. Most veterans who get deported are convicted of crimes. Most of them also had legal status that was then revoked after their convictions. This means veterans who struggle from mental health problems and have had run ins with the law are the ones most often deported.
Lacking citizenship or legal status often prevents the veterans most in need of help from getting the help they need. Instead it gets them deported.
At least there is a loophole that allows some of them to return. Once they die, they are allowed to return to be buried in a military cemetery.
The good news is that just this past week, a Congressional bill was introduced to stop deportations for veterans convicted of minor offenses. It also allows veterans who have already been deported for minor offenses to return.
But it falls short of doing the same for veterans convicted of felonies. Still, it is a step in the right direction.
The bad news, of course, is that the bill has been introduced to the U.S. Congress. This means it is unlikely to go anywhere.
Feature image via screengrab/Fox News Latino