Marchers display the U.S. flag as they pass through downtown Milwaukee, WI May 1, 2006 as part of the national boycott to protest immigration bill HR 4437. (Photo : Reuters)
Many undocumented immigrants who sign up for the Armed Forces mistakenly believe their service will earn them American citizenship.
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Two brothers, both of whom are veterans, are aiming to change that. On Wednesday, Valente and Jesus Manuel Valenzuela began a campaign to halt the deportation of veterans.
The Valenzuelas know how it feels. Their own deportation orders are currently suspended, after the Department of Homeland Security was unable to prove they are not citizens.
But the papers the Valenzuelas do have are not good enough to prove they are, so they exist in a state of limbo.
Valente joined the Army in 1967 while Manuel was a Marine. Both served during the Vietnam War.
The brothers are trying to raise awareness and funds for their campaign, which kicks off in Colorado Springs, where they live.
"The people of this country should know what's happening to the families of our deported veteran brothers," said the Valenzuelas.
"We already did our part by serving this country. Now it's the people's turn to do their part and donate," they said.
Many immigrants join the military for the benefits package, which includes health care and educational assistance.
But veterans who end up deported have no way to take advantage of those benefits, and neither the federal government or the American military is usually willing to help.
"ICE exercises discretion with people who have been members of the Armed Forces who have served our country honorably on a case by case basis," said Lauren Mack, spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Still, immigrations has the ability to grant some leeway, though it's unclear how often they exercise it. In 2011, ICE Director John Morton sent a memo saying, "Whatever action from ICE that can result in the expulsion of military veterans, needs to be authorized by a field office and evaluated locally."