Oscar is a 47-year-old man from Ecuador. He has 4 American born children and is separated from his wife. Oscar is a lawful permanent resident of the United States, who immigrated to the United States when he was 21 and shortly after joined the Army.
Oscar is a veteran of the Gulf War and served eight years of active duty before being honorably discharged. He is diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To deal with the effects of his PTSD Oscar would drink heavily and use drugs. These behaviors eventually led him to a deal where he was selling an illegal firearm to cover a debt.
Oscar was charged, convicted, and did his time for the crime that he committed and felt that he had paid his dues for that particular crime. As he was being released from the Criminal Courts, Oscar was led to the immigration courts where he found out that he was going to be held on trial to find out if he would be deported back to Trinidad for having a criminal record. While awaiting trial Oscar was held without any option of being bailed out for three years after which he was able to win his case and stay in the United States. Oscar could then be reunited with his four children.
Although there seems like there was quite a bit Oscar had to go through in order to remain in the United States, his case is actually one with a good outcome. In many cases, the lawful permanent resident (LPR) veterans will be deported back to their listed country of origin without regards to whether they have grown up in the United States, have a family and children in the United States, or that they have no understanding of what life in their new country will be like.
Although, there have been some changes made to help expedite the process for LPR veterans to gain their citizenship there are still many pitfalls that can come up along the way. It is not a process that can be navigated easily and depending on what your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is and how much time you have to make it to appointments that are scheduled for immigration purposes, the process can become even more difficult.
The question then becomes, how does this particular policy as it now stands help or hinder these LPR veterans in obtaining their citizenship? As the policy stands according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2011, members of the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for expedited application for naturalization if they demonstrate:
?À Good moral character
?À Knowledge of the English language
?À Knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics), and
?À Attachment to the United States by taking an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution
Qualified members of the U.S. armed forces are exempt from other naturalization requirements, including residence and physical presence in the United States.
As stated in an article by Powers found on usmilitary.about.com, once the LPR veteran is eligible, the process and paper work needed for naturalization is what becomes the difficult part.
One of the most difficult sections is in reading and understanding the application and process itself. The next few steps have to do with obtaining and completing the forms and application. The following step is having your fingerprints taken and having passport type photographs taken to attach to the application. Any requested extra and necessary documents must be collected and officially translated to English if needed, along with a statement from the translator proving the competency to translate.
When the application is completed and all necessary items are attached the LPR veteran must take the application to the servicing citizenship representative, for verification of the information. At this point the LPR veteran can mail the application packet to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). Then it is time to wait to be contacted for an appointment. It can take up to four months to process and schedule an interview date.
Once the interview date is set the LPR veteran must appear at the interview or have the case administratively closed, at which point they have a year to contact USCIS to reopen or have application denied do to abandonment. The next steps are to wait for the decision, and if granted take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
Laying out the process, it is easy to see that it may be difficult for certain LPR veterans to accomplish all of the steps needed. This may be especially difficult for those who are in a combat zone. In times of war it can be difficult due to military training and deployments. These can come in the way of the LPR veteran being able to file the necessary paperwork as well as communicate with the immigration agencies during the naturalization process as stated by C.H. Hartsfield in an article published in the Rutgers Law Review, titled "Deportation of veterans: The silent battle for naturalization."
During times of war there are different tactics that are used to recruit for the U.S. armed forces. One of which is the idea of citizenship. However, the promise of citizenship continues to be a difficult struggle for many LPR veterans and many end up being deported to there listed country of origin. This is not only in bad taste to the LPR veterans for their service to the country, but it also leaves a burden to the families they leave behind and the various systems that the family will have to navigate through in the United States. These systems can be anywhere from schools, medical, mental health, and possibly even the criminal system. As a country the U.S needs to look at its policy regarding LPR veterans and their deportation. As a society and as helping professionals we need to look at how to continue to help the families left behind as well as continue to advocate for future LPR veterans, to keep them from being deported.
Vets and others: What do you think about this issue? Write you comments below!
Maximiliano A. Molina:
Maximiliano A. Molina is a recent Master of Social Work graduate from the University of Southern California. He has a passion for bringing to lite the under-represented issues pertaining to the United States Veteran population.