Photo: U.S. Armed Forces
Veterans gathered in Washington on Thursday to call for immigration reform that acknowledges the efforts of their immigrant comrades as well as the diversity and richness they contributed to the ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces, and they also asked for equal treatment for their families.
Veterans for Immigration Reform at a press conference presented a document in which they defended the legacy of immigrants in the military before beginning a series of meetings with lawmakers to press for immigration reform.
Brett Hunt, the founder of Vets4Reform, said that immigrants have been on the front lines in all the wars the United States has fought and noted that he himself had served in Iraq with fellow soldiers from Kenya, Honduras, Mexico and Vietnam.
Nevertheless, he said that even after risking their lives, these veterans and their families “have no guarantee of being treated fairly by our immigration regulations.”
“We have a debt to those veterans and to their families,” Hunt said.
U.S.-born Jesus Magaña joined the Armed Forces at 19 and when he was stationed in Afghanistan he learned that his sister, who when she arrived in the United States from Mexico was 8 months old, was in detention awaiting deportation.
Lawmakers “have no more excuses” for continuing to delay the process of comprehensive immigration reform, Magaña said.
Meanwhile, Rodrigo Garcia, a former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and whose parents were illegal immigrants, recalled the long history of immigrants who have served and shown true “devotion” to their adopted country.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), also an Iraq veteran, said that for many veterans fighting for immigration reform is something personal which they do in honor of the soldiers with whom they served.
In 2013, there were more than 65,000 immigrants on active duty with the Armed Forces, 5 percent of all uniformed military personnel.
Approximately 12 percent of all living veterans are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
Vets4Reform emphasized that there have been immigrants and children of immigrants who have risen to the top ranks in the military, such as late Polish-born Gen. John Shalikashvili, who was Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, and Gen. Colin Powell, the son of Jamaicans, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before serving as secretary of state.