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Latino Daily News

Friday March 9, 2012

U.S. Veterans Fight to Obtain Legal Status for Their Families

U.S. Veterans Fight to Obtain Legal Status for Their Families

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While many veterans of current U.S. wars wrestle with physical and emotional wounds and the challenges of getting a job, some must also contend with obstacles to obtaining legal residence for their loved ones.

Former members of the Armed Forces who find themselves in that situation spoke out Thursday during a press conference at the offices of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

“These men and women have nearly given their lives to be able to serve this nation and protect our rights. However, when it comes to wanting to be with their parents or spouses, the U.S. turns its back on them,” CHIRLA Communications Director Jorge-Mario Cabrera told Efe.

“All I want to do today is support my spouse and obtain the same process that serving members of the Army receive,” said Guadalupe Acosta, who spent eight years in the military.

Immigration attorney Jessica Dominguez cited an official memorandum to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that calls for making the naturalization process more flexible for family members of active-duty members of the Armed Forces.

That memo exempts undocumented spouses of military personnel from the usual requirement that they leave the United States for 10 years before applying for naturalization, she said.

But the exemption does not apply to the kin of veterans, even though many of them - suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or permanent injury - need the care of a spouse or parents.

And even for active-duty military, the exemption does not extend to undocumented parents.

“In my case it seems a little unfair because I’m not married and the person who has always supported me in my life is my mother,” 25-year-old Army member Sandra Garcia said.

She and brother Mario Garcia, who retired from the U.S. Navy four months ago, issued a plea Thursday for authorities to show some flexibility in the legalization process for their mother, Humbertina Carranza, who illegally entered the United States in 1978 to be with the father of her children only to later find herself raising five kids alone.

Also at Thursday’s press conference was Rodolfo Torrentos, a Navy veteran who recently wed the undocumented mother of his 3-year-old son.

“They are the main reason why I’m here in front of you: I would like to get the same benefits received by those who are serving now,” he said. “I served during my time and fought for the same cause as they do, defending our country.”

“These military personnel have received recognition and distinctions for their service, certificates and medals, but now they can’t receive the most important recognition which is the benefit that their spouses or their parents can have legal status to accompany them in their lives as veterans,” CHIRLA’s Cabrera said.