U.S. military veterans are heroes who defend our nation and sometimes sacrifice everything to protect us. That is why many people are shocked to see them deported after serving our country.
Many military members believe that their service automatically grants them U.S. citizenship. This is not the case, however, and many veterans with criminal convictions can face deportation.
Edwin Salgado served in the military for six years and lived in the United States since he was three years old. After a felony conviction and a year in prison, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent him back to Mexico. Mr. Salgado is one of many deported veterans and many service members who cannot come back to the United States except for their military burial.
As we have talked about in earlier blog posts, military service gives immigrants and their families an expedited path to U.S. citizenship. Service members must still fill out the proper paperwork and go through the immigration process to become citizens. If they do not follow this process, they will not receive citizenship and be at the mercy of immigration courts after a criminal conviction.
While there are proposed bills to change criminal immigration laws, there are no exceptions for veterans. Because of the high stakes of deportation, veterans who have met the service requirements should consider applying for citizenship. No one can predict the future and many veterans did not plan to make the mistake resulting in their removal.
A naturalized veteran will not face deportation except in limited circumstances, such as a dishonorable discharge. Furthermore, they will receive the right to vote and the ability to work. If you are a service member, speaking with an immigration attorney is your first step to protecting your future.