Things That Matter

This Former Marine Had To Self-Deport To Mexico Before He Could Become A U.S. Citizen

Meet Daniel Torres. The former U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran finally became a U.S. citizen after self-deporting five years ago.

Credit: @DeportedVets / Twitter

Despite being unauthorized to live in the United States, Torres wanted to fight for this country, so he used a false birth certificate to enlist.

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Credit: Hector Bajaras / Facebook

“When I enlisted in the Marines, I knew the risks. It was something that could come up; it was something that could come back and hurt me,” Torres told the press outside of San Diego’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ office. “I was just hoping that I wasn’t going to pay for that mistake for the rest of my life. And now I’m able to finally go home and live the life I feel like I need to.”

Torres was forced to leave the country he loved and defended because of a lost wallet.

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Credit: Hector Bajaras / Facebook

The Iraq vet went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get his lost ID card replaced, but Torres’s story raised enough suspicion that the DMV notified his superiors. The U.S. Marines discovered his immigration status and gave him an honorable discharge.

Torres originally went to France to fight for the Foreign Legion, but he eventually relocated to Tijuana, Mexico.

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According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Torres lost part of his hearing while serving in Iraq, which barred him from serving in the Foreign Legion. As a result, he moved back to TJ, the border city where was born.

It was in Tijuana that Torres got the support from other military vets that were deported after serving.

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Credit: Deported Veterans Support House / Facebook

The Deported Veterans Support House, or “the Bunker,”  helps vets adjust to their new country. The organization also provides assistance with food, housing and clothing, while also advocating for legislation that would end the deportation of those who have served.

Living in Mexico didn’t stop Torres from seeking legal status in the country he grew up in. Thanks to a special provision in the 1964 Immigration and Nationality Act, Torres could apply for citizenship because he served during a “time of hostility.”

Credit: @TatianaYSanchez / Twitter

That’s right. Undocumented people who serve in the military during certain times CAN become U.S. citizens after serving, but they have to serve during a time of hostility. Torres’ case was made easier because he wasn’t deported.

Here are the “times of hostility” that would allow undocumented service men and women to become  U.S. citizens if they so choose.

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Credit: uscis.gov

“[D]efending US interest is the one thing I am the proudest of. I did not join the Corps because I wanted an alibi for citizenship, no,” Torres said in an open letter to some haters (seriously). “I will not use my military service as an excuse, I love being a Devildog and I will be one till the day I die. All people who survive know they do so at a risk, the same goes for me; it was a risk to join claiming I was a citizen when I wasn’t, but you know what? I would do it all over again…”

“I just am really, really happy, to be able to finally go home and be here where I feel I belong,” Torres told local media.

Credit: @SDACLU / Twitter

“I’ve missed birthdays, Thanksgivings, reunions, weddings, funerals,” Torres continued in his open letter. “I cannot be there now while my mother struggles with chemotherapy. I do not want your pity or to feel bad for me, but I do want you to know, that we are people, good people.”

Way to go, Daniel.

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Credit: The Voice / NBC / The Voice / Giphy

Let’s hope that this conversation will continue so we can help all of our veterans, documented or not.

READ: How these Latino Military Heroes Put Trump to Shame

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A High School Student Is Being Detained By ICE But His School Is Rallying Support Behind Him

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A High School Student Is Being Detained By ICE But His School Is Rallying Support Behind Him

Will Lanzoni

A New Haven, Connecticut school was rocked by the news that one of its students had been detained by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). The announcement by the principal came over Wilbur Cross High School’s PA system and sent shockwaves throughout classrooms.

Mario Aguilar was arrested by ICE when the 18-year-old attended a court hearing to handle charges over a traffic accident. Students and teachers were unsettled by his detention. They decided to support Aguilar through the immigration process and fight against his deportation. 

Teachers even tried to send him his homework — a symbolic gesture that they were still holding a space for him in their hearts, minds, and classrooms. ICE sent it back.

Teachers are heartbroken over Aguilar’s detention. 

Students and teachers orchestrated a coordinated effort to support Aguilar. They wrote letters to ICE to influence his release. They showed up to his court hearing. Students printed “Free Mario” posters and stickers to raise money for his commissary. They kept his desk empty in Spanish class believing if they did that maybe Aguilar would come home soon.  

Teachers sent him his homework and some books — but it was sent back, labeled return to sender. ICE asserts that if it is not related to his case, Aguilar can’t have it, according to CNN

“Mario was hundreds of miles away from his family, from his home. He got stability at school and security within this community, until he was taken from us,” Principal Edith Johnson, whose parents came to the mainland from Puerto Rico, said at a press conference. “Throughout my years as an educator, I’ve lost too many children to community violence, tragic accidents, medical conditions and significant trauma that keeps our students out of school — and now, another terrifying variable certain to take students off course, with ICE arrests.”

Aguilar’s Spanish teacher Mary Perez Estrada was there during his asylum hearing. She was one of the teachers who sent him books she hoped would comfort him. “As Mario spoke before the court, detailing how he’d fled persecution from gangs in Guatemala, Perez Estrada hoped the judge would see what she did in her student — someone who deserves a chance,” according to CNN. “The judge didn’t make a ruling that day. He told the court he’d announce his decision on December 12.”

Wilbur Cross students demand that ICE “Free Mario.”

Aguilar was detained by ICE while attending a court hearing related to his involvement in a car crash. When his cellphone slid off of his dashboard he accidentally hit a parked car when he attempted to retrieve the phone. No one was hurt and the vehicle was only minorly damaged. 

“I hope that he knows we’re fighting for him and I hope that helps, but that’s very minimal when you’re stripped away of your humanity,” said CT Students for a Dream organizer Anthony Barroso. “We’re here to also to show Mario if he can hear the news, that we are fighting for him, and many others in the same situation.”

Doing nothing, even if what is being done won’t change the result, did not feel like an option. For the students and teachers, for Aguilar’s community, they understood that being deported back to Guatemala could mean sending him back to his death. 

“The goal is to let everybody know what the situation is, spread the word, so we can be a bigger community,” junior Wilbur Cross High School student Stephanie Pawcar told NBC.“I don’t personally know Mario, but he is a student at Wilbur Cross and it’s really important because it’s something that needs to be talked about.”

According to Principal Johnson, students have written over 400 letters in support so far with more rallies and protests planned. 

Students and teachers are arguing that Aguilar has a right to fight his deportation.

Aguilar’s peers believe he should be able to stay in the United States and fight his case in the courts, rather than being sent back to the country he fled when he was 16. Gabriel Gonzalez is a senior at Aguilar’s school and a budding filmmaker. She is utilizing the medium to create a film to help her classmates understand why they should care about Aguilar’s case. “He wasn’t known before, but now literally there’s posters around the school with his face on it everywhere.

People didn’t know about him because he was just a regular student,” Gonzalez told CNN.

“But now the fact that just this ordinary student was taken, his whole life has been turned upside down because he happens to be from somewhere else, shows that this can happen to anyone. And it shouldn’t happen to anyone, because we’re all just trying to live our lives as teenagers or normal, everyday people walking around the street.”

A Chilean Military Plane With 38 People On Board Crashed While On The Way To A Base In Antarctica

Things That Matter

A Chilean Military Plane With 38 People On Board Crashed While On The Way To A Base In Antarctica

sebastianpinerae / aero.commander / Instagram

The search is on for clues after a Chilean military plane with 38 people on board crashed on its way to Antarctica on Monday afternoon. The plane, a Hercules C-130 transport, made the last contact at 6:13 p.m. which was around an hour and five minutes after it initially took off. It was 390 miles into its journey to the Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, a Chilean base on in the northern region of the frozen continent, according to a statement issued by the Chilean Air Force. Seven hours after the plane last made contact, the Chilean air force declared it lost, with no definitive reason as to why it had disappeared. 

According to the New York Times, the aircraft was carrying 17 crew members and 21 passengers, which included a university student and two Chilean civilians who worked for an engineering and construction firm that was contracted to do maintenance work on the Antarctic base.

“The chances are difficult but I think it would be profoundly wrong to lose heart at this moment when we are doing everything humanly possible and with all our energy and determination,” Defence Minister Alberto Espina told reporters. “The air force has provided a thorough investigation to clarify the facts with complete transparency.”

The Chilean military has deployed fighter jets in an expansion of its search. Uruguayan and Argentine air forces have also joined in on efforts.

Chilean officials are now conducting an all-out search for the plane and any clues that might lead them to why the military aircraft might have crashed. Officials said that the plane had taken off in favorable conditions Monday afternoon from the southern city of Punta Arenas, though the area is known for rapidly changing conditions that include freezing temperatures and chilly winds. According to a BBC report, Air Force General Eduardo Mosqueira told the local press that the plane didn’t activate its emergency signal and proposed the idea that the pilot might have tried to land on the frigid waters. 

The Chilean military is now in the midst of search and rescue efforts that include four ships and 10 planes. Joining this mission are the Uruguayan and Argentine air forces, who have each contributed a C-130 plane to help. The United States has also lent a hand by providing two satellite orbits to capture images over the South Pacific Ocean.

The plane is said to have crashed in Drake’s Passage, the sea in the middle of the southern tip of South America and Antarctica, which is known for its severe weather conditions. The area has been known to produce freezing temperatures and harsh storms that have caused other aircrafts to avoid flying through during these conditions. 

“The plane is presumed to have crashed, given that the amount of fuel and the plane’s autonomy had already run out,” said Chilean Air Force General Francisco Torres in a press conference, according to CNN.

South American leaders, including Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, have all expressed their condolences to those lost on the plane and their loved ones. 

This tragedy has prompted an immediate response from Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, who canceled a trip to Argentina, where he was expected to attend the swearing-in ceremony of President-elect Alberto Fernandez. Instead, Piñera headed to the Cerrillos airbase in Santiago, Chile where he joined rescue operations and families of the plane’s passengers gathered. He reiterated the message that the Chilean government would spare no effort to find the plane.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the 38 crew members and passengers of the FACh (Air Force) C-130 plane,” Piñera wrote on Twitter. “With the help of many we are making every effort humanly possible in the search operation for the plane.”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also tweeted words of support saying that his government is doing all that is possible to help with search efforts. “We offer Chile support for the search and rescue operations of the Chilean plane, which disappeared in the Drake Strait with 38 people on board. We have already spoken to President Piñera and ask God that all those involved will be successful in the rescue.”

The plane crash comes at a difficult time for Chile and President Piñera, who has overseen a country displeased with socioeconomic disparity, vast systemic corruption, and other government abuses. All of this has led to almost two months of riots in the capital city of Santiago. 

READ: This Kid Is Going Viral In Mexico For Using His $70 Peso Winning Lottery To Buy Tacos For A Man In Need