Immigrant communities across the United States have historically been denied fiscal and social capital. Systemic inequities prevent them from accessing stable education, employment, housing, and income. Left without other tangible pathways to better their conditions, many immigrants resort to serving in the armed forces with the promise of citizenship for themselves and/or their loved ones. They risk their entire livelihoods, and yet their promise often goes unfulfilled.
Immigrant veterans have been facing deportation proceedings as far back as former President Clinton’s administration. When he signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, he effectively made it legal to deport permanent residents if they are convicted of a crime. Many veterans resort to substance abuse to cope with post-deployment PTSD, but for non-citizen veterans, getting caught means facing deportation.
This problem has stretched across various administrations—including President Trump’s and President Biden’s. Meshing together anecdotes from those who have lived this horror first-hand with the insights of those who are pushing for policy solutions, this project highlights the pain, trauma, and longing that deported veterans live through across both sides of the border.
The issues deported veterans face did not start with the Biden administration, but his administration promised its end. Hernandez hopes that extending this conversation to Spanish-speaking communities through El Debate will create a united call for immigrant justice, resulting in just and equitable policies that center the humanity of immigrants and resolve this problem once and for all.
Graphic by Carlos Padrón / El Debate.