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Monday, February 7, 2011

U.S. deports 3,000 war vets in 15 years

February 07, 2011

Washington – Some 3,000 war veterans, the majority of them Hispanic, have been deported over the last 15 years, according to a pair of Mexican-Ameican brothers who served in Vietnam and are now facing expulsion after 55 years in the United States.

The United States takes the position that foreign-born ex-soldiers who commit a crime or even minor infractions of the law may be deported to their countries of origin.

A large portion of these crimes are linked to "psychological problems and traumas stemming from war," Valente, the older of the two Valenzuela brothers, told Efe.

"Combat is very hard, such that many of those who return cannot stand it and begin to drink alcohol or do drugs, start to get involved in problems, and some wind up in jail. From there, they are deporting them," 62-year-old Valente said.

The infractions for which the Valenzuela brothers are facing possible deportation occurred more than 20 years ago, in the case of Manuel's speeding ticket, and a decade ago for Valente, cited for misdemeanor domestic violence.

Undocumented immigrants who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces are given a choice between naturalization and retaining their foreign citizenship.

But Manuel and Valente Valenzuela never thought they would need U.S. citizenship, since their mother was American and their Mexican father went through the naturalization process.

"We were born in Mexico, and my mother made the mistake of not getting our papers in order when we came to the U.S.," Valente said. "But we've spent our whole lives here and we even risked them to defend this country in Vietnam," Valente said.

The Valenzuelas, who live in Colorado, traveled to the U.S. capital to ask President Barack Obama to "stop the deportations and bring the expelled veterans back."

As part of their campaign, Valente and Manuel on Sunday protested in their military uniforms in front of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, the monument that pays homage to the roughly 57,000 U.S. armed forces personnel who died in that war.

"We don't blame him. We know that it wasn't he who made these rules. But Obama is the only one who can put an end to the regulations that the Bush administration established after the 2001 attacks, and (the fact that) they are pursuing the foreign veterans as if we were terrorists," Manuel said.