He Risked His Life Twice As A Marine Fighting In Iraq And Now He Could Be Deported Back To El Salvador
Across the U.S. border, there’s an organization called Deported Veterans Support House that helps to transition servicemen and women that were in the U.S. military but ended up being deported because of their denied citizenship. It’s bizarre and perplexing to think about how many people sign up to serve and protect the rights of American citizens, in order to become citizens themselves only to be rejected. That’s the infuriating situation that many people have found themselves in due to logistical matters instilled by the U.S. government.
A 38-year-old Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq is now facing deportation to El Salvador because of crimes he committed after his time in the service.
It’s common knowledge that some veterans face post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after they wrap up their tours overseas. And in many instances, for a variety of reasons, veterans can’t get the mental help they deserve. It is that chain of events that may lead Jose Segovia Benitez’s to be deported back to El Salvador — a country he hasn’t lived in since he was 3-years-old. Segovia Benitez was an undocumented immigrant when he went to serve in Iraq during 1999-2004.
Many undocumented immigrants enlist to join the army in order to become citizens. The government has made that promise to people as a path to citizenship. What they don’t tell you is that enrolling in the U.S. military doesn’t automatically make you a citizen. There’s still a ton of paperwork to fill out, and it has to be done by the person who is seeking citizenship. Deported veterans have complained that they didn’t realize they had to be the ones to fill out the paperwork.
There are also strict regulations put upon those service members. For example, if you’re seeking to be a U.S. citizen through the military, you must have a clean record after you serve.
If a veteran gets into any kind of trouble with the law, that is an automatic strike against them, and now their citizenship is in jeopardy. That’s the case with deported veterans, including Segovia Benitez.
The Hill reports that Segovia Benitez began to have minor offenses after he was honorably discharged from the military in 2004. A clear sign of PTSD, which went untreated. NBC News also reports that he suffered a brain injury while serving, and despite that, he was awarded several medals for his service.
“If he would have had the resources to have legal representation back then, he would not be facing this right now,” Carlos Luna, president of Green Card Veterans, told NBC News. Luna is also helping Segovia Benitez’s case. “Even further, if he would have had the medical resources available that he needed, then he may not have ever ended up in a courtroom.”
Last year, a judge ordered his deportation, but lawyers for Segovia Benitez have spent a year appealing that decision. Last week, he was put on a plane to El Salvador and was then ordered to be taken off that flight.
His supporters continue to fight for Segovia Benitez to remain in the country. His mother sent a plea to Gov. Gavin Newsom and said, “please help us. This is the country he belongs in, the country he fought for,” she said, according to NBC News.
Under President Donald Trump, we’ve seen other similar cases in which undocumented veterans were deported.
Miguel Perez Jr., who served two tours in Afganistan, was deported to Mexico in the middle of the night after living in the U.S. for 30 years. “I’m not leaving,” Perez Jr. said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune in April. “They’re taking me.” He added, “Not for 30 seconds was I illegal in this country. I went to war for this country out of love for this country. I was given birth in Mexico and life in the U.S.”
Last year, Enrique Salas, who also served in the military for several years and was deported because of his drug abuse, was only able to return to the U.S. after he was dead.
Salas was en route back to the U.S. because his sister said he was in desperate need of medical help. However, he never made it back. He died in the ambulance. The government did give him a proper military burial.
Before his death, Salas made a statement to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report titled “Discharged, then Discarded: How U.S. veterans are banished by the country they swore to protect.” He said, “My parents gave two of their children to the Marine Corps, and now they’ve lost both of us.”
There seems little hope for Segovia Benitez, but his supporters are taking whatever faith is left. A Department of Homeland Security told The Hill that Segovia-Benitez is currently detained in an ICE detention center “pending removal.”
According to the Committee on Deported Veterans, there are an estimated 1,500 veterans that have been deported.