Things That Matter

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. 

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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. 

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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.

READ: After Four Years Fighting In The Marines, This Deported Veteran Came Back To The US In A Casket

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

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Across the country, dozens of undocumented immigrants have sought refuge at churches, where they are typically safe from immigration enforcement.

However, as ICE escalates its attacks on the immigrant community, churches and other sensitive places of refuge may no longer be the ‘safe spaces’ they once were.

ICE has allegedly arrested a man who was inside of a church and they lied to get him out.

Last week, six ICE agents entered an undocumented migrant’s home (located on church property) and now that man is in a Georgia detention center. Binsar Siahaan, 52 (from Indonesia), was told that there was a problem with the GPS monitor he had to wear and that they needed to take him to an ICE office in Silver Springs, MD.

“As soon as he stepped outside, they handcuffed him,” taking him first to Baltimore and then to Georgia. He was not given anything to eat for two days, Rev. Scroggins said through tears. She said, “He is being abused. He is not well,” adding, “The way he is being treated is absolutely appalling.”

Siahaan currently is being held in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. and may be deported to his native Indonesia. He has been in the United States since 1989, coming here on a visa to work as a driver for the Indonesian Embassy. He overstayed the terms of the visa and then was denied asylum, because he did not apply on time.

But in Siahaan’s case, at the time they moved into the house on church grounds in January, they had no reason to fear ICE would come after them. They moved in to help take care of the church, which they have been attending for about six years.

Siahaan’s attorney and clergy at Glenmont United Methodist are rallying to stop Siahaan’s deportation, accusing ICE of breaching its own protocol by arresting him on church property under false pretenses and while his appeals are still pending.

The church where it happened is urging ICE to release the man – who is still in custody.

Leaders of the United Methodist Church – where the arrest occurred – have called for ICE to release Siahaan. They also called on ICE to state publically that it will uphold its policy of not entering sensitive locations, which includes “churches, synagogues, mosques or other institutions of worship, such as buildings rented for the purpose of religious services,” according to an ICE 2011 memorandum

“We are gravely concerned,” said Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary of the general board of the Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. “Church grounds are sacred.” She said the government was “in complicity to sin” if it won’t protect immigrants.

Rev. Kara Scroggins, pastor of the Glenmont church where Binsar has been a member for six years, called Siahaan “one of the most devoted, loyal and generous persons I know.” He helps out at the church constantly and usually is the first to arrive and the last to leave, she said.

This is hardly the first time ICE has conducted similar operations.

Credit: Smith Gado / Getty Images

An immigrant who sought refuge from deportation in a North Carolina church, staying there for 11 months, was arrested in 2018 after arriving at an appointment with immigration officials.

The arrest led to protests and the arrest of some supporters of Samuel Oliver-Bruno, the 47-year-old Mexican national who, according to an ICE news release, was detained at a Raleigh-area immigration office.

An advocacy group, Alerta Migratoria NC, said in a statement Oliver-Bruno went to have fingerprints taken so he could apply to stay in North Carolina with his wife and son. This is when ICE stopped in to make the arrest.

He had been living in CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham since late 2017, to avoid the reach of immigration officers, who generally avoid making arrests at churches and other sensitive locations.

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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In what many are calling a landmark decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just handed a major victory to migrant’s rights advocates. Although the major ruling seems simple on paper, it has major legal implications and could truly change the way that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrest undocumented immigrants.

However, the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court – where it would face an uncertain legal future given the possible future makeup of the nation’s highest court.

The 9th Circuit Court just issued a landmark legal decision that could greatly affect ICE arrests.

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Long-standing rules for arresting migrants may soon need to change, thanks to a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court says that ICE needs to align its arresting and detention procedures with those of all other law enforcement agencies in the country, which are guided by rules within the U.S. constitution. When police arrest people for suspected crimes, the constitution requires them to show probable cause to a judge within 48 hours. But ICE does not do that. When ICE arrests people, it typically holds them for weeks before any judge evaluates whether ICE had a valid legal basis to make the arrest.

But ICE’s policies may no longer be legal.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the usual constitutional rules that apply to normal police all over the country also apply to ICE. “The Fourth Amendment requires a prompt probable cause determination by a neutral and detached magistrate,” the court said. This really shouldn’t be a big deal. Prompt independent review by a judge of whether the government has a legal basis to take away a person’s freedom is an essential safeguard against tyranny.

ICE’s arrest and detention policies have long come under scrutiny for seemingly skirting constitutional rules.

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For almost 200 years, immigration enforcement has existed in a sort of grey area, where the usual rules never applied. For example, when ICE arrests people, individual officers have much more legal discretion than other law enforcement authorities. Detainees may be held for weeks or months before going to a judge who will ask the person how they plead to ICE’s allegations against them.

Only then, long after the initial arrest, might ICE actually be required to show a judge any evidence to back up its case. The person would have spent all of that time detained, likely at a private detention center in a remote area.

For any other person in the U.S., this procedure goes against every legal protection in the constitution. But ICE has gotten away with treating immigrants this way for generations.

The ruling comes as other courts are making it easier for ICE to abuse migrant’s constitutional rights.

The ruling by the 9th Circuit comes less than a week after the 1st Circuit overturned a ban prohibiting ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants at courthouses in Massachusetts.

In 2018, ICE created a policy of attempting to arrest undocumented immigrants when they appeared at state courthouses for judicial proceedings. However, a district court granted an injunction against the policy after migrant advocates filed a lawsuit against ICE. They claimed that ICE was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and lacked authority to make civil arrests at courts.

Meanwhile, ICE has resumed large-scale enforcement operations, announcing roughly 2,000 arrests over several weeks amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The 9th Circuit’s decision raises an obvious question: How many of those people were detained for more than 48 hours without a review by a judge?

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