Nov 5, 2013
05:32 AM
The Connecticut Story

Connecticut Veterans Expelled from U.S. for Minor Crimes Fight Deportations

Connecticut Veterans Expelled from U.S. for Minor Crimes Fight Deportations

Submitted photo: Sharon Giammarco

Arnold Giammarco and his daughter, Blair, in a photo taken in Italy.

After honorable discharges from the Army in 1979 and the National Guard in 1983, Arnold Giammarco sunk into a pattern of substance abuse, shoplifting and jail before turning his life around, marrying in 2010, and becoming a father.

But the Italian-born Giammarco, 57 — one of thousands of legal residents who serve in the U.S. military despite lacking citizenship — now counts the days away from his family in Sulmona, Italy, after immigration authorities abruptly took him from his Groton home to a detention facility in May 2011 and deported him to Italy last November.

Mark A. Reid of New Haven, 49, spent six years in the Army Reserve before his honorable discharge in 1990 and still speaks about being “willing to die for this country.” Now he sits in a Massachusetts jail, facing deportation to his native Jamaica because of four drug convictions including sale of narcotics and possession of heroin. Last November, immigration officers moved Reid — who came to the U.S. at age 14 — to Immigration Custody from the Brooklyn, Conn., jail where he was serving time for what he described as “a $30 drug sale.”

The two men are among what veterans’ advocates say is a growing number of noncitizen military veterans who are being deported for crimes for which they served time years earlier.

Giammarco moved to the U.S. at age 4. His deportation came 16 years after his larceny convictions, nine years after his drug convictions; Reid’s came two years after his last conviction. Unlike citizen veterans who run afoul of the law, non-citizens’ punishments don’t always end with convictions and incarceration, and the military that once embraced them as equals does not always intervene on their behalf when immigration officials move to deport them.

“There’s a mismatch between the claims of the (Obama) administration in focusing on dangerous criminal aliens, and people who have been deported,” said Michael Wishnie, a Yale University law professor and supervising attorney of the Yale Law School clinics that are representing Giammarco and Reid pro bono.

“Our veterans should be celebrated and not arrested and deported, and particularly not for low-level offenses,” said Wishnie.

Since 1996, the list of crimes that make a noncitizen eligible for deportation has been expanded and includes minor offenses, Wishnie said.

While the federal government does not break down its criminal deportation statistics based on whether deportees are veterans, advocates such as Craig R. Shagin, a Philadelphia lawyer who specializes in immigration law and opposes deporting veterans, say the number “is likely in the thousands.”

Legal noncitizens, known as green card holders, have served in the military throughout American history.

Khaalid H. Walls, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which handles deportations, said the agency is “very deliberate in our review of cases involving veterans.” He added that “any action 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.” Walls said ICE issued a memo in June 2011 citing U.S. military service as a positive factor that should be considered in determining if a case should go forward.

Members of Congress have raised concerns about veterans being deported, but there has been no action on the issue. U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., has been unsuccessful in two attempts to get a law passed that would require the approval of the secretary of homeland security before a deportation process is initiated against any noncitizen veteran who served honorably.

For the full story, visit New Haven Register online.


Connecticut Veterans Expelled from U.S. for Minor Crimes Fight Deportations

Reader Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Feed Feed