LatinaLista — On this Veteran's Day, while we honor the men and women who have volunteered to put their lives on the line to serve in the nation's military, we can't help but think of how some of our military veterans are being rewarded for their sacrifice in the most cruel form a government can commit against its own soldiers -- forcibly separating them from their non-citizen spouses.
Since the dawn of civilization when soldiers traveled to conquer other regions of the world, there have been soldiers who were themselves conquered by the oldest emotion of the world -- love.
They met and married women who didn't share their nationality. The tradition continues. Soldiers are marrying non-US citizen women. But citizenship status is the last thing on a soldier's mind when he/she is getting ready for deployment and the prospect of never seeing their loved ones again looms greater above all else. For soldiers, it's only right for them to assume if they're laying their lives on the line to protect their country that the government would protect their family.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case when there involves non-citizen spouses. Because of the current immigration laws, non-citizen spouses who have endured separation from their husbands and wives, or worse, the deaths of their partners, aren't even allowed to fully grieve before they are assaulted with the technicalities of U.S. immigration policy.
For that reason, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced in the Senate yesterday, the Military Families Act, S. 2757.
Menendez introduced the bill to:
"help ensure the families of those that have served our country with pride and valor don't face unfair and unexpected deportation and are able to remain in this land they call home, close to their loved ones."
According to a special report released by the Immigration Policy Center entitled "Essential to the Fight: Immigrants in the Military Eight Years after 9/11":
As of June 30, 2009, there were 114,601 foreignâ€born individuals serving in the armed forces, representing 7.91 percent of the 1.4 million military personnel on active duty. Roughly 80.97 percent of foreignâ€born service members were naturalized U.S. citizens, while 12.66 percent were not U.S. citizens.
The September 11 attacks precipitated immediate changes in policies on immigrants in the military. Once the nation was at war, immigrants in the armed forces were eligible for naturalization under the special wartime military naturalization statute. As of October 2009, more than 53,000 immigrants had taken advantage of this provision to become U.S. citizens.
Immigrants who have served in the U.S. military and by so doing earned their citizenship include Alfred Rascon, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who won the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War and later became a U.S. citizen and eventually the Director of the Selective Service System.
All immigrants who did not come to the United States on nonâ€immigrant visas also were--and are--potentially subject to the draft. Congress has long required all foreignâ€born males age 18 to 26 who are living in the United States to register for Selective Service and to serve in the military if drafted.
Even undocumented immigrants are required to register. While there has been no serious effort to start a draft, the military services could draft undocumented immigrants should the draft be reinstated. Failure to register for Selective Service may temporarily or permanently bar an immigrant from naturalizing. A conviction for desertion in time of war or a claim of exemption from military service on the grounds of "alienage" (that is, not being a native of the United States) may result in a permanent bar to naturalization.
It's always been understood that fighting for this country is an honor, a service and bonds men and women with this country like no other job in the nation.
So, it's not unreasonable to expect the government to honor its part of the bargain to keep a soldier's family protected --regardless of citizenship status.
(Editor's note: Check out the featured video, "Second Battle," on the Latina Lista Network.)