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Over three thousand undocumented military veterans battling deportation orders

LatinaLista — It goes without saying that the men and women of our armed forces who fight on behalf of our country deserve to be respected and honored for that service — regardless of their citizenship status.


In many ways, the men and women who are not citizens of the United States but choose to sacrifice their lives for a country that they feel wholeheartedly is their home, though they may not have been born here, deserve extra kudos because their volunteerism runs much deeper than someone who is a citizen.

So, the news that there are more than 3,000 veterans incarcerated under threat of deportation because they are not US citizens is not just outrageous but appalling.

According to an Associated Content article, several undocumented immigrants who were told that if they joined the service they would be granted citizenship are now finding themselves ready to be dispatched overseas again — across the US-Mexico border.

Take the case of Orlando Castanea. Brought to the United States from Mexico by his parents at the age of three, Castanea grew up in America. As an adult, he joined the U.S. Army and spent 12 months fighting in Iraq. He was told that his military service would secure his application for citizenship. Then, only months after returning from Iraq, Castanea received a deportation letter.

Forgetting the fact that Orlando grew up in the US, his service should be more than enough reason to justify his stay in this country, along with, those other thousands of former soldiers who were seen as equal to their peers when being sent to fight abroad.

That suddenly they are less than equal because they are now back on US soil serves as an ugly commentary on how this country treats undocumented soldiers. Yet, perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising since Ruhman discovered some interesting tactics utilized by some military recruiters.

Many veterans that Ruhman and her colleagues interviewed claimed that automatic U.S. Citizenship was promised to them by recruitment officers in return for service. In reality, non-citizens who serve in the military must still apply for citizenship. However, many veterans who did submit applications were left by the wayside, as their applications did not follow them once they were deployed to a combat zone.

These sad examples are all the more reason that the DREAM Act needs to be passed and quickly before any more soldiers find themselves facing the most senseless and uphill battle of their lives — proving they love this country.

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  • Traci
    October 7, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    “….but choose to sacrifice their lives for a country that they feel wholeheartedly is their home…”
    Actually, I hardly think that the term “sacrificing their lives” is appropriate. Few soldiers actually intend to die for their country in some kind of heroic Homeric effort. And the fact that they were trading for citizenship sounds mercenary, aa it seems likely wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

  • cookie
    October 7, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Found this little gem on
    In order to join the US Military, you must either be a US citizen, or you must be a legal permanent immigrant, physically living in the United States, with a green card. The US military cannot and will not assist with the immigration process. If you are not a US citizen, you must legally and permanently immigrate to the United States first, via the regular immigration procedures and quotas, establish a residence, and then (if you meet the other qualifying criteria), visit a military recruiter’s office and apply for enlistment.
    As you can see those in our country illegally cannot join the military according to our standards for enlistment. Some of these recruiting offices are not on the up and up and need to be investigated.

  • Marisa Treviño
    October 8, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Cookie, GOOGLE US soldiers sworn in as citizens and you will find a plethora of articles recounting how immigrant soldiers are awarded citizenship. That these soldiers were promised something is not unbelievable given past practices.

  • Marisa Treviño
    October 8, 2009 at 8:59 am

    In response to your comment Traci, all I can say is what a piece of work you are. Your dislike of undocumented immigrants runs so deep that even when they volunteer to serve this country you still can diminish their existence and their contributions. Your way of thinking is highly offensive.

  • miguel
    October 8, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Traci….I can only post from what I know to be true. My nephew died in Irag on 4-1-2006 during his 2nd tour in Iraq. He got his citizenship along with his purple heart right before he was lowered into his grave. And yes he did love this country.

  • irma
    October 8, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Soldiers ( citizens or not) join the military for many reasons. Here are a few reasons:
    1. travel opportunities
    2. get away from home
    3. educational opportunities
    4. adventure
    5. patriotism
    6. family ties to the military
    7 following a loved one
    and yes – hoping that their service would be rewarded with citizenship.
    The US military in fact BANKs on the mercenary aspect of it all -with signing bonuses in cash. The fact that you are so judgmental speak volumes about you.
    The fact than undocumented immigrants are in the US military should not surprise anyone. In WWII, and before it was common place. The only requirement was passing the physical and being able to follow commands in English. And yes, I do know what i am talking about, my undocumented father
    passed the physical but failed 2 times to
    pass the English requirement. He sadly watched as his friends were sent to Europe .

  • shane walsh
    October 8, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    the undocumented men and women who go out on a limb for the United States by enlisting and deploying to the middle east stand as the models for all others within the undocumented community as people to look up to.
    Even if these brave individuals are lucky enough not to have to “sacrifice their lives”,…ahem, traci, experiencing the realities of life in combat leaves many soldiers,marines,airmen and sailors forever changed, either through physical or mental scars.
    To compound these issues is the extra stress and possible feeling of betrayal that undoubtedly many of this group of 3,000 are feeling due to this situation.
    It is disgraceful to dismiss these people after the duty they have performed.
    FYI, i do not think is exactly a professional/academic source for military regulations.

  • cookie
    October 9, 2009 at 10:08 am

    I doubt that any website is going to publish false information on this matter including What would their motive be? It isn’t a biased website it just gives you information on all kinds of topics.
    No, what is happening is that some of these recruiters are doing something sneaky and underhanded by enlisting unqualified candidates and making empty promises that they are not authorized to make to increase their quotas. Either that or like in the workplace those not authorized to work or reside in this country are producing some pretty convincing falsified documents to gain entry into our military.

  • DaveMora
    October 9, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Sorry to hear about your Nephew. I personally have lost close friends to the war too.
    I am just wondering was your Nephew a “Green Card” holder?
    When I graduated High School was here legally waiting for my date in Court to become a “Green Card” holder.
    I attempted to join the Arm Forces and I was denied because I was not a green card holder.
    6 years later I got my green card and 5 years later I got my Citizenship.
    I know it is sad but kids really need to see recruiters as Car Sales man and know that if they promise you the world it needs to be in writting. I know from family and friends who in the military and they will also tell you. That no job is written in stone. Especially in the Navy. You will be placed where they think you will best at.

    We cant belive everything that is on the internet. Many mis truths are writen and then re-writen at other places.

    Also, I am not familiar with the Dream Act but serving the US Arm Forces should not be the only requirement to become a Citizen. Personally, I think it should be an additional requirement or at least if you in limbo like I was when I graduated. Not yet a Green card Holder but legal enought to have a Social Security and Work Permit I should have been allowed to join the forces.

  • Jamee
    October 9, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Chances are they committed fraud by signing a sworn statement regarding eligibility. As such they are subject to criminal prosecution under the UCMJ. Deporting them without imprisonment is actually doing them a favor.

  • Efrain Ortiz Jr.
    October 9, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Ok… hit the nail on the head (reasons many join). Marisa: this is an excellent article. I can, after 21 years in the military and as a retiree, say that these stories bear truth. I have in my time served along several individuals without citizenship and they have served honorable. was also for you…Traci, Cookie….you should be offering thanks.

  • Marisa Treviño
    October 10, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Hi Dave, Thanks for writing. I do try to confirm what I find from other sources that are online are credible. The DREAM Act provides military enlistment as only one other way for undocumented students to gain citizenship. The other route is to enroll in college. Either way, it is a way to ensure that citizenship is earned.

  • Harry
    October 11, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    “Either way, it is a way to ensure that citizenship is earned.”
    What these people want is a legal presence in this country. Earning citizenship by this means is like Al Capone robbing a bank and then negotiating to be forgiven for doing so and offering to sweep the bank floors to earn the money he stole. Unless every would-be immigrant is given the same treatment, even those who haven’t violated our laws, this idea is extremely unfair to all but the chosen few. There is only one fair way to earn citizenship, and that’s by applying the same immigration laws to everyone.

  • irma
    October 12, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Dear Harry,
    If you think the application of immigration laws is the only way that people should be allowed to earn citizenship – then a lot of
    people should pack their bags and leave.
    I think the way to EARN citizenship is to do just that. APPLYING For something seems the cheap way out.

  • cookie
    October 13, 2009 at 9:01 am

    There are only two ways that citizenship is valid or earned in this country and that is through birth on our soil and for foreigners to go through the legal channels to gain citizenship. There are many factors involved in the latter and is no “cheap” way out.

  • irma
    October 13, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Immigration reform is on its way – Latinos in the US now have sufficient political clout to get it started. It will happen and the second way you mention that citizenship can be gained will be modified to include
    many more options than currently exist.
    It seems to me that SERVICE should be required for citizenship for all individuals
    not born in the United States. Filling out
    a bunch of papers and standing in line
    is just not enough. It CHEAPENS what it
    means to be an American.
    If service was a requirement – I suspect that a lot of those people standing in line would not find that acceptable.
    Yes, the willingness to SERVE the USA
    for several years in some capacity is
    the best way to find out who really
    should stay.

  • cookie
    October 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Irma, hate to burst your bubble but our congressmen will base their votes on any CIR on whether they want to tick off the majority or pander to a small minority and lose their seats in congress. I think the answer is clear.
    I am a little confused here. Service in the military should be required for all citizens that were born here or are you just talking about immigrants? If you are stating the former, it would never come to pass. Many Americans are not physically or mentally able to serve in the military. Keep in mind that this would do away with birthright citizenship for all then.

  • Briana
    November 18, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Actually you can become a citizen through marriage and in some cases through work visas (certainly you can get a Green Cared that way). Application and birth are not nearly the only ways. And often applying – with no connections to the US do little good. But that’s a story for another time.
    The more I see people talk about this the more I realize that very few actually know anything about immigration process or law. And since it’s been changing a lot the last few years, why would you? It’s a tough issue to follow. But it would be great if those that wanted to speak authoritatively did some homework.

  • megan
    January 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    actually an illegal person cannot get there citizenship just from marriage my husband waited in mexico for about a year till his visa came though seeing as how this was my first time i hired a lawyer i thought was ggod he met we when i didnt him to and always answered my called when my husbands visa came though i went to mexico to brign him home i was 8 months pregnant they didnt want to accempt our marrage as it was done in mexico so we remarried here in the states and 2 weeks later we went to start his papers again we used the same lawyer he stated he need the visa to prove my husband came over with a visa and that it had to be sent with the application for his papers since this lawyer had gotten his visa we trusted him but my husband and i quit hearing from him and his phone was diconnected we got scaried and found out that the lawyer was fake now my husband was picked up coming home from work and has been waiting a month to be deported and now ice is telling me that i have to go to mexico and take my daughter who was born here and live there or they will charge me with transporting an illegal even though i was unware i mean we used his visa and passed all the checkpoint with out problems, my point is i think something needs to be done because were immigration is concerned there is alot of scams and no one to protect people like me and my family

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