You might have concerns about the troubled families of service members deploying to Iraq. You might have concerns about the service member’s ability to stay focused in combat while thinking about his troubled family.
You might not be Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. The center lobbies for tougher laws on illegal immigration. Krikorian says, “What we’re talking about here is letting lawbreakers get away with their actions just because they have a relative in the military.”
The law in question says your status as a legal immigrant changes to a status of illegal if you entered the country legally and were included in a legalization application as an unmarried person under the age of 21 but then married before being granted legal status.
This is the situation for Mildred Gonzalez. She is the wife of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Second Class Eduardo Gonzalez. Eduardo is about to be deployed to Iraq for the third time.
Mildred and her mother entered the United States legally in 1989. Because of their status as war refugees from Guatemala, they were granted political asylum. Mildred was five-years-old at the time..
Mildred’s mother applied for legalization. That application included Mildred. Six weeks before her mother was granted legal status in July 2004, Mildred married Eduardo. That put her status in jeopardy, but did she break the law and is she an illegal immigrant as Krikorian contends? Mildred’s status changed when she married, but she didn’t immigrate into the country illegally.
Krikorian doesn’t see it that way. “What you’re talking about is amnesty for illegal immigrants who have a relative in the armed forces, and that’s just outrageous.”
The military doesn’t see it Krikorian’s way. U.S. Army Reservist Lt. Col. Margaret Stock teaches immigration law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. “You got to understand. When you’re in a combat zone, you need to be focusing all of your energies on fighting the enemy. You can’t be worried that your loved ones back home could be shipped off to a foreign country where you’re never going to see them again,” she said.
Stock points out the government’s conflict in such cases: the government is to provide military families with assistance, housing and other benefits while their spouses are deployed, but at the same time, the government is seeking to deport the family out from under the service member.
Immigration officials have stated that marrying a U.S. citizen doesn’t automatically entitle the spouse to U.S. citizenship or permanent legal status.
Stock said, “What’s happening right now is, because of the dysfunction and complexity of our immigration laws, we’ve got people fighting overseas who are facing the impossible situation of having family members facing deportation back home.” She says a policy is needed to deal with the possible deportation of a service member’s family, especially while that service member is preparing for deployment and while deployed.
Krikorkian disagrees. “There’s no justification for that kind of policy,” he said.
Eduardo thinks Krikorian’s position is unwarranted, saying, “I’m trying to make his country better — my country better — and it should be her country, too.” Testifying before a House Judiciary Committee panel on September 6th, Eduardo said, “I want to serve my country 100 percent. But with this issue in the back of my mind, I feel I can’t do that.”
If his wife is deported, he doesn’t know what would happen to his young son, Eduardo, Jr. “I like being in uniform and serving my country, but if she goes back I’m going to have to give it all up and just get out and take care of my son and get a job. Defending the country that’s trying to kick my family out is a thought that always runs through my mind.”
A one-year extension was granted by a judge for Mildred in June. She can remain in the United States until June 2008. Unless her legal status changes before then, however, she will have until August to leave the country voluntarily or be deported.
U.S. Army Sgt. Emmanuel Woko, a member of the Army’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division also faces his third tour in Iraq. He understands Gonzalez’ plight because his wife and children could be sent back to Nigeria. “My heart is bleeding on the thought that my wife could be deported back to Nigeria while I am deployed in Iraq,” he said. “I am extremely distressed and distracted by the thought.”
These military service members remain loyal to the United States, serving in combat even while facing the possible deportation of their loved ones. It would appear an exception to the rule is in order because there is a new order to the rule.