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ACLU Report Finds Many Foreign-Born Vets Deported or Facing Proceedings

First Posted: Jul 09, 2016 11:04 AM EDT
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An American Civil Liberties Union report finds the federal government has neglected to file the naturalization applications of a growing number of foreign-born U.S. vets, resulting in many of them being deported or now facing such actions.

In all, the "Discharged Then Discarded" entitled report documented 84 instances where foreign-born vets have faced such circumstances.

"They are members of what is unfortunately a growing brotherhood---veterans of the United States armed forces who have been unceremoniously deported," ACLU officials said in a statement.

Combat Officers Among Those Deported 

ACLU authorities added many of the victims are former combat officers who suffered physical wounds and emotional trauma in conflicts that go as far back as the Vietnam War.

"Many have been decorated for their service," the statement added. "But service records notwithstanding, the U.S. has seen fit to kick them out of the country, sometimes for minor offenses that resulted in little if any incarceration."

According to the report, the military service put in by many of the men cited in the report should have been enough for them to be granted naturalization, but the federal government failed to take the necessary steps to ensure their naturalization while they were still in the military.

Some Vets Insist They Were Mislead

Researchers added some of the vets mistakenly believed they automatically became citizens by virtue of their service and others claim they were misled by recruiters into believing U.S. citizenship became automatic upon their enlistment.

In all ACLU officials estimate that there are at least 250 deported veterans now residing in 34 countries. Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials claim the agency does not keep track of such statistics.

"Any action taken by ICE that may result in the removal of an alien with military service must be authorized by the senior leadership in a field office, following an evaluation by local counsel," said agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice. "ICE specifically identifies service in the U.S. military as a positive factor that should be considered when deciding whether or not prosecutorial discretion should be exercised."

Many of the veterans featured in the ACLU report were brought to the U.S. as children and spent decades in the U.S. in lawful status. Over a nine year period commencing in 1999, an estimated 70,000 noncitizens enlisted in the U.S. military or about 4 percent of the armed forces.

The Center for Naval Analyses reports as of 2010, fewer than half of the legal residents who joined the military over that same time frame had become citizens.

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