Deported Veterans Banished After Honorable Service

Deported Veterans Banished After Honorable Service

"Milton Tepeyac, who served eight years as a U.S. Marine, scrapes by on $3 an hour in this northern Mexican city, where he has lived since the U.S. government deported him in April.

His rented room floods when it rains. Scorpions skitter in. To kill them, he had to pay an exterminator $40 — more than a quarter of his weekly paycheck.

Once he served in the Kuwaiti desert in a recon battalion, a highly trained grunt monitoring the movements of Saddam Hussein’s military across the border in Iraq. Later he ran a seafood business in Phoenix, drove a BMW, and owned a five-bedroom house with a billiards room and a pool.

But then, with his business foundering in the 2008 recession, he was offered $1,000 to help with a drug deal that turned out to be a police sting. He was convicted of felony “possession of marijuana for sale” and was sentenced to four years in an Arizona prison. When he completed his time, he was deported from the country where he had lived since he was 3.

“It was a stupid thing to do,” Tepeyac, 37, said of his crime. “I feel like I’m stuck in a perpetual nightmare. I can’t seem to adjust to this life. In the Marines, we have a motto that we never leave a man behind. I feel like I’ve been left behind.”

As a deported veteran, Tepeyac is one of a little-known cadre of warriors who served in the U.S. military as green-card holders — permanent legal residents but not U.S. citizens — then committed a crime after returning to civilian life, were convicted and punished, then were permanently expelled from the United States.

No one knows how many there are. U.S. officials said they do not keep track, but immigration lawyers and Banished Veterans, a group formed to help the deportees, said that at least hundreds, and perhaps thousands, have been deported in recent years." - Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2013.