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'Discharged and Discarded': Washington Aids Deportation of Combat Veterans

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A report titled "Discharged, Then Discarded,” released on Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California documents 84 cases of foreign-born US military veterans being deported after fighting for their country.

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The veterans were deported after the federal government lost, misplaced or failed to file naturalization applications, the Los Angeles Times reported. The deported soldiers’ service record entitles them to naturalization, but many say that they were misled into thinking that it happened automatically, and were not provided the resources to file their applications.

"They are members of what is unfortunately a growing brotherhood — veterans of the United States armed forces who have been unceremoniously deported," the ACLU said in a statement. "Many are combat veterans who sustained physical wounds and emotional trauma in conflicts going back to the war in Vietnam. Many have been decorated for their service. But service records notwithstanding, the US has seen fit to kick them out of the country, sometimes for minor offenses that resulted in little if any incarceration."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not track those who serve in the US military and are later deported, making it difficult, if not impossible, to know the actual number of veterans who have been deported following their service. A spokeswoman for ICE claimed, however, that additional steps are taken when deportation involves military service.

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"Any action taken by ICE that may result in the removal of an alien with military service must be authorized by the senior leadership in a field office, following an evaluation by local counsel," ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said, in a prepared statement to the Times. "ICE specifically identifies service in the US military as a positive factor that should be considered when deciding whether or not prosecutorial discretion should be exercised."

Between 1999 and 2008, approximately 70,000 noncitizens enlisted, making up some 4% of the nation’s soldiers. By 2010, less than half had become citizens.

In another new report released this week by Veterans Affairs, data shows that 7,403 veterans committed suicide in 2014, or approximately 20 per day, in the first official count to be conducted.

“Among male veterans aged 18 to 29, the suicide rate was 86 per 100,000 people; the US suicide rate as a whole is 13 per 100,000. The rate for female veterans aged 18 to 29 was 33 per 100,000. Suicide rates among American females jumped 40% from 2001 to 2014 but 85% among female veterans,” Newser reported.

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