Deportee challenge

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Deportee challenge

Charlie Brown

Sunday, July 05, 2020

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The deportation of non-citizen veterans is an unintended consequence of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), signed by former US President Bill Clinton in September 1996. Billed as an anti-crime effort, the law made it possible to deport legal permanent residents convicted of certain crimes, or sentenced to a term of imprisonment that exceeds a year categorised as aggravated felonies.

Based on six years of studies and notes-taking, I find that there are two types of deportees — criminal and non-criminal. And, they can be broken into six categories — displaced, desperate, damaged, rich, resourceful, or dangerous.

A US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that an estimated 92 veterans were deported from 2013 to 2018 to various countries. But the numbers are far higher, according to groups of deported veterans in Jamaica and Mexico — two countries with high rates of criminal deported migrants. Before this report, no one knew how many veterans had been deported because the US Government didn't keep track. And while the report uses information from multiple federal government agencies to quantify their numbers over the past six years, the total number of veterans who've been deported remains unclear.

Although the Ministry of National Security accepts deportees on a regular basis — and is supposed to have a deportee monitoring unit — it is unclear to local officials how many are veterans with military training and tactics because the US and Government of Jamaica (GOJ) data are not synchronized. At times, officials at the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) are unable to find meaningful statistics on people who are deported.

The GAO report also found that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “did not consistently follow its policies involving veterans who were placed in removal proceedings”. Those policies include considering a veteran's military service during removal proceedings. “Any action taken by ICE that may result in the removal of an individual with military service must be authorised by the senior leadership in the field office following an evaluation by local counsel... Still, applicable law requires ICE to mandatorily detain and process for removal individuals who have been convicted of aggravated felonies,” the report said.

In Jamaica, once deported, if deportees are not self-sufficient (having means of survival in order to re-integrate into the society without hindrance despite the stigma) without the assistance of families or friends, non-government organisations (NGOs), or the Government to a less extent, criminal-minded veterans have been forced to, or intentionally, seek solace in well-organised criminal gangs. And, with the elite training and experience attained from the US armed forces, they become 'civilian commandos' who can challenge the best foreign force, if needs be, so it does not take a rocket scientist to assess the end results as seen in the Horizon Park confrontation that put other law-abiding deported veterans' lives at risk.

Some veterans say they've been forced to live in exile without medical care for the injuries they sustained in war. They've been deported to a country in which they are unable to adjust. It has been decades since some lived in the US and, despite the fact that they are Jamaicans, they don't even understand the language or how to reintegrate into the society. While veterans with service-related injuries have access to medical care, since removal there are no access in Jamaica, so they have to source their own medical funds. Some went to the US as children and as legal permanent residents. As adults, 18 and over, they enrolled in the military with the promise of expedited citizenship, which never happened based on a variety of reasons, like long deployments to various places stateside and overseas, while some might have ignored the process.

After serving, they got in trouble with the law in various states with different laws. And there are some who are victims of the retroactive effect of the IIRIRA. It's a common story for veterans returning home from battle. However, unlike citizen veterans who run afoul of the law, legal permanent residents will be deported if they are convicted of certain crimes. They also have one thing in common — to return to the country they served or, at the very least, they want to receive access to medical care from the US Government, but deported veterans have few options for health care outside the US, and it's harming the most vulnerable. Some veterans are totally heavily depressed and use substances to cope with their depression, desperation, anger, or service-related mental health issues.

As a result, society is faced with veterans who are becoming sicker, and more likely become suicidal, because they are not receiving any care, or the care that they're receiving is not adequate for their circumstances. Some are being deported illegally, and are facing anger and frustration that they meted out on the society in general.

This problem is two-fold, between the US (the remover) and GOJ (the receiver). It requires a two-fold solution.


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