Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Deporting Latino Military Vets Is Part Of Trump's Ugly Racism And Xenophobia


Just judging my her voting record, Kyrsten Sinema is the very worst Democrat in Congress. When Ryan and McCarthy talk about how "bipartisan" some toxic piece of legislation that forwards Trump's agenda is, they're talking about Sinema's support. According the ProgressivePunch, Sinema's crucial vote score for the current session is the lowest of any Democrats in history-- 12.50... and in a strongly blue district. There are Republicans with more progressive voting records-- including Louie Gohmert! Obviously, they rate her an "F" but her lifetime crucial vote score is nearly as abysmal-- 35.34. Only 3 Democrats, all very right-wing freshmen, have worse records: Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ), Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ) and Stephanie Murphy (Blue Dog-FL)... and all 3 are in more swingy districts. So why bring up Sinema today? I want to use her as an example, not just as an example of a stinking pile of garbage, but as an example of someone with a perfect voting record on issues that impact her directly. She's, she's a rotgut conservative who deserves to be driven out of Congress-- also unbelievably corrupt on a Wasserman Schultz level f bribe-taking-- but when it comes to her own identity politics... she's as pure as the driven snow. Women's issues? Sinema is fabulous. She's a woman. LGBT issues? She's fierce (well... she votes right.) She (loudly) claims to be bisexual. Issues that don't impact her personally though-- pure Republican. There are others like that, of course, but she's the worst of the worst.

Today I was happy to hear from L.A. Congresswoman Nanette Barragán that she spent part of the 4th of July weekend down in Tijuana visiting the Deported Veterans Support House there and meeting with veterans who have been deported from the United States. Nanette, president of the freshman class, has an across the board 91.30 ProgressivePunch crucial vote score, the 6th best of any freshman, and regardless of issue, Nanette can be found fighting the good fight.
“It was heartbreaking to see my constituent, Hector Barajas from Compton, still proudly wearing his U.S. military uniform, but unable to live with his family in the country for which he fought,” said Rep. Barragán. “I am grateful to Governor Jerry Brown for issuing Hector a pardon. I am working to do everything in my power to help Hector rightfully receive his U.S. citizenship."

Barajas served in the Army for 5 1/2 years. He had problems with substance abuse, served his time, but upon his release was deported to Mexico. He now runs “The Bunker,” or the Deported Veteran Support House, a shelter to help other veterans who have been deported.

“It was shocking to learn that veterans receive citizenship after dying while in active duty and deported veterans are flown back to the United States to be buried with full military honors upon their death. Yet, the government will not allow them to live in the country for which they had fought,” continued Barragán. “These veterans have done their time. They deserve to return home on their own two feet, not to return home in a box.

“Anyone who fights for the freedom of our country should be granted citizenship. Period. Along with my colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I will continue to fight for our veterans and to make sure they know they are just as American as their brothers and sisters in uniform.”

Naturalization used to be part of basic training, but the laws changed. As of January 2017, there were 10,644 noncitizens currently serving in the U.S. military and an additional 11,524 noncitizens under reserve status. The greatest numbers of lawful permanent resident (LPR) service members come from the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica, South Korea, and the Dominican Republic. Overall, there are about 608,000 living foreign-born veterans of the U.S. armed forces from nations around the world.

Many LPR service members are told by recruiters that they can quickly gain citizenship for themselves and their family after serving honorably. However, they are not advised that citizenship is not granted automatically and that they must actively seek citizenship through the standard (although expedited) application process. A 2016 report by the ACLU estimates that the United States has deported more than 230 veterans.
Raul Grijalva was with her for the trip to meet with the veterans and, like her, he has been an across-the-board champion for justice and equality and for progressive values. 5 other members of Congress went along for the ride-- all Hispanic-Americans and, generally speaking, a pretty conservative bunch. To be fair, Joaquin Castro (New Dem-TX) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM) are better described a centrist establishment types than as conservatives. The other 3, though, are are pretty bad, not as bad as Sinema... but close: Lou Correa (Blue Dog-CA), Vicente Gonzalez (Blue Dog-TX) and Juan Vargas (New Dem-CA). Grijalva and Barragán are the only ones with good ProgressivePunch scores. The others range from mediocre-- Castro with a "D"-- to Vargas, Lujan Grisham, Correa and Gonzalez all with ugly "F" scores. "F" except on the identity politics issue, where they find themselves an abused minority. Sinema stands up for gays because she's gay and is a vile conservative on other issues. Correa may be as bad as they come on bread-and-butter issues (especially when lobbyists are handing out the bribery checks) but on specifically Latino issues... well, he knows where his own bread is buttered. Principles and values have nothing to do with it, which is why members who are even doing a good thing (for a change) are still loathsome and unworthy of the kind of praise Grijalva and Barragán deserve.

By the way, Monday the San Francisco Chronicle reported that legislators in California are trying to help the deported vets.
Last month, the Assembly unanimously approved AB386, which would direct the state to pay legal fees for certain deported veterans trying to return to the U.S. if they have a California connection-- such as having been stationed at a California base, or having children attending school in the state. It’s unknown how much this would cost the state. The bill is expected to clear the state Senate.

The state budget that Gov. Jerry Brown just signed includes $45 million for the legal defense of immigrants facing deportation. Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher of San Diego, who sponsored AB386, is pushing ahead with the legislation because it would explicitly state that deported veterans are eligible for that legal aid.

Immigrants who serve in the U.S. military are automatically eligible for citizenship, but to gain it they must complete the application process. Some of those who have been deported were legal permanent residents-- green card holders-- who say they mistakenly thought they became citizens when they enlisted and took their military oaths. Others didn’t follow through with the paperwork during active duty.

Many of the veterans at the support house, started by deported former Army paratrooper Hector Barajas-Varela in 2013, have pinned their hopes on the California bill and efforts by some members of Congress to help them. Otherwise, they don’t expect to return to California until they are dead-- when they will be allowed to be buried with military honors in a U.S. cemetery.

“These are people who made a compact with the federal government-- they were willing to give their life and fight for their country-- and in exchange our military service said, ‘You will be granted citizenship.’ And for whatever reason, that didn’t happen,” Gonzalez Fletcher said.

Opposition stems from organizations pushing for more stringent immigration laws, increased deportations and less legal immigration. Mark Krikorian heads the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for strict immigration enforcement and limits on legal immigration. His position: Deported veterans should not be let back in.

“They had a chance to become citizens on the fast track while in the service, and they chose not to take it, despite the military’s hectoring green card soldiers to get naturalized,” Krikorian said. “They’re grown-ups and need to deal with the consequences of their actions.”

Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for limited immigration, pointed out that “California does not have a legal defense fund for other veterans who find themselves in legal difficulties.”

Immigration authorities do not track how many veterans the federal government deports each year. But in the past two decades since the immigration laws changed, the American Civil Liberties Union estimates about 3,000 veterans have been deported.

The ACLU is working with some of the deportees, combing through their cases looking for legal recourse. Veterans may be eligible to expunge their records, reclassify their crime under current laws, appeal their deportation or apply for citizenship or visas that would allow them to return.

At the Tijuana support house they call the Bunker, the veterans have created a community. It’s a small space, part storefront, part apartment, on a quiet dusty side street about 15 minutes from the border.

Barajas-Varela is the backbone of the operation. He’s one of three veterans who recently received a pardon from Brown, and he’s awaiting a federal decision on his citizenship application. He’s also tuned in to the fate of the California bill.

“When you are deported, no one cares about you,” he said. “For this legislation to be introduced is huge.”

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At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the democraps never did shit to remedy losing the voting rights act and they seemed only interested in trying to win upper middle whites in '16. Their rhetoric still panders a bit to the more melanin-enhanced folk, but their voting hasn't done much for them in decades.

So Latinos (and blacks, Asians and native americans) who kept voting for democraps after about '82 deserve the blame for them having nobody to rely upon in government, especially during the alternating wave crests of racism that will be every 4 or 8 years from now on.

If Latinos et al want to get fair treatment, they'll have to find a different party to support lest they end up living in the united WASP Christian states of America some day very soon.

At 5:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again DWT attempts, quite falsely & counter-productively, to attribute to His Hairness, alone, creation of hideous characteristics of the society that have, instead, been with us since the founding of the country.

We are the product of genocide and slavery. As if it were necessary to point it out, those are, precisely, the creation of the attitudes of racism and xenophobia.

Sure, His Hairness fails to politely condemn these attitudes and even manipulates them to his advantage. But he has NOT created them. No one else has done anything more than offer a few, polite, public "how awful"s and then return directly to the war room to see who/where we bomb this afternoon.

A country can reap only what it has sown.

If it weren't such a horrendous tragedy, it would be laughable that anyone, at this juncture in our history of perpetual war, would expect any justice for the pawns of the hideous institution of US militarism.

To suggest anything substantively different would prevail in the absence of His Hairness, is exhibiting the height of willful and aggressive idiocy.

John Puma


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