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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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Biden Says He Will Introduce An Immigration Bill “Immediately” But What Will Be In It?

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Biden Says He Will Introduce An Immigration Bill “Immediately” But What Will Be In It?

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

During the 2020 election, Latinos were a massive electoral voting bloc. In fact, for the first time ever, the Latino vote outnumbered the Black vote. According to the Pew Research Center, there are now 32 million eligible Latino voters and that accounts for 13 percent of all eligible voters. 

And, Latinos helped deliver the presidency to Joe Biden. So it can be expected that the community has high expectations for Joe Biden to deliver on his campaign promises of immigration reform.

During a recent speech about his first 100 days in office, Joe Biden outlined his priorities once he’s sworn in on January 20th, and said he would “immediately” send an immigration bill to congress.

Joe Biden promises swift action on immigration reform as soon as he takes office.

Over the weekend, President-Elect Joe Biden promised he would take swift action when it comes to immigration reform and rolling back many of the cruel and dangerous policies put into place by the Trump administration.

“I will introduce an immigration bill immediately,” he said in a news conference on Friday.

Although he didn’t go into detail regarding the proposed legislation, he’s previously committed to ending Trump’s ban on immigration from predominantly Muslim nations, and that he wants a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and an increase in guest worker permits to help bring undocumented agricultural workers – many of whom are now considered “essential workers” – out of the shadows.

Biden had already promised an immigration overhaul within the first 100 days of his presidency but this commitment definitely increases the pressure on him and congress to get things done.

Biden also said his justice department will investigate the policy of child separation.

During the same press conference, Biden said that his Justice Department will determine responsibility for the family separation program, which led to more than 2,600 children being taken from caregivers after crossing the U.S. southern border, and whether it was criminal.

“There will be a thorough, thorough investigation of who is responsible, and whether or not the responsibility is criminal,” Biden said. That determination will be made by his attorney general-designate, Merrick Garland, he added.

During the campaign, Biden finally took responsibility for many of his administration’s immigration failures.

Nicknamed the “Deporter in Chief,” Obama deported more immigrants than any other president in U.S. history with over 3 million deportations during his time in office. 

But as part of that administration, Joe Biden is also complicit. That’s why during the campaign he seemed to acknowledge at least some of the pain the duo caused.

“Joe Biden understands the pain felt by every family across the U.S. that has had a loved one removed from the country, including under the Obama-Biden Administration, and he believes we must do better to uphold our laws humanely and preserve the dignity of immigrant families, refugees, and asylum-seekers,” Biden’s immigration plan reads. 

While Obama’s methods pale in comparison to the cruel tactics like family separation, inhumane conditions, and targeted raids, the impact the deportations have had on families is cannot be quantified.

Biden, like any Vice President, is put in the position of having to defend his president, but also himself as the future president. This isn’t a bad thing, Biden must distinguish himself from his predecessor but if the shadow of Obama’s legacy is buying him goodwill, it might be difficult to undermine that administration’s stances.

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This Inmate Firefighter Was Nearly Killed Battling California Blazes But Now He’s Facing Deportation

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This Inmate Firefighter Was Nearly Killed Battling California Blazes But Now He’s Facing Deportation

David McNew / Getty Images

Across the United States there are hundreds of thousands of undocumented Americans doing their part to protect and better the country. But far too often, our communities and our leaders don’t return the favor.

One man, a former inmate who was injured while battling California’s historic wildfires, was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after he was released from prison. Instead of being given a second chance, he faces likely deportation back to his native country of Laos – a place he hasn’t known since he was 4 years old.

A California man is facing deportation after nearly dying on the frontlines of the state’s wildfires.

A formerly incarcerated firefighter who helped battle California’s historic wildfires is now in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, after the state notified the agency he was being released.

Bounchan Keola, 39, left his native Laos at the age of 4. His home is here in the United States – in San Leandro, CA to be exact. But he’s facing the ultimate punishment of being sent back to a place he knows nothing about.

“He made a mistake as a child. He came here impoverished and he was resettled as a refugee when he was 6,” said his San Francisco Asian Law Caucus attorney, Anoop Prasad. “And he literally risked his life. California didn’t have to call ICE to deport him…This case is extremely sad and unfortunate. Society has failed him again and again.” 

Even more shocking is that Keola only had 14 days left on his prison term when he was crushed by a tree while battling the Zogg Fire in early October. He was soon released from prison but then taken into immigration custody by ICE.

While fighting a wildfire, Keyla was severely injured.

Credit: David McNew / Getty Images

Although Keola was convicted of attempted second degree murder, not only has he served his term but he also gave back to the community as one of the thousands of inmate firefighters battling the state’s blazes. In fact, he received a shorter prison sentence because of the extra credit he earned for fighting fires. 

Incarcerated firefighters get two days credit off their sentence for every day they’re working and are paid up to $5 a day. It’s estimated they save the state tens of millions of dollars a year. 

But then Keola got injured.

While he was stationed in Redding, CA., a tree fell on him while he was clearing brush to stop the fire from spreading. He is still in excruciating pain, his lawyer said, and he has not received the proper medical attention.

Since his release from prison, Keola has been in ICE detention.

Just seven days after being injured and with seven days left in his prison term, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation notified ICE that his release would be coming up. On Oct. 16, the day Keola finished serving his prison sentence in Sacramento, ICE came to pick him up. On Oct. 29, an immigration judge ordered his removal to Laos, records show.

Since being picked up by ICE, Keola has been held at a detention facility in Kern County. Although he faces a deportation order, Laos doesn’t have a repatriation agreement with the U.S., which means he could end up staying in California. But his fate is still unclear. And only a pardon from Newsom, his attorneys said, would expunge his record and allow him to go home freely to his parents and sister. 

I just want to go home and give my mom and dad a hug,” Keola told The Guardian, the first news organization to report the story. “All I know is I’m American. I’ve never thought of myself not being a citizen. I’m just asking for that one, second chance.”

Keola’s fate is in the hands of Gov. Newsom as he awaits a potential pardon for his crime.

Gov. Newsom has painted himself as a champion of those who have been incarcerated and fought on the front lines to save California during the wildfire season. That’s why Keola and his attorney say that his fate is in the hands of the governor. He has asked for a pardon from his prison sentence, showing that he has changed for the better and that his service to the state battling wildfires should count for something.

On Sept. 11,  Newsom signed AB 2147, a bill that will allow formerly incarcerated people to be able to try to expunge their records and become professional firefighters. Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter,” Newsom later said in a tweet after signing the bill. 

Yet Keola, an inmate fighting fire on the frontlines, hasn’t been given that chance. And although California is a sanctuary state, which forbids most cooperation with ICE, Keola was still handed over to the agency.

Newsom’s spokesperson, Jesse Melgar, said in a statement: “We are unable to discuss individual clemency applications, but can assure that each application receives careful and individualized consideration.”

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