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Bill in Congress could help deported U.S. veterans return to America

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Posted at 6:31 PM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-21 00:12:49-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As a child, Carlos Torres left Mexico with his family and came to America.

He had a green card for residency. Torres eventually wanted to serve his new country, so he joined the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

"I know he was extremely happy about going," said Torres' son Robert Mosqueda. "It wasn't just him getting out of the house, but it was him able to do something beyond what his capabilities were."

When Torres was honorably discharged, he tried to get a government job, but was turned down because he was not a U.S. citizen.

Torres was a U.S. veteran who fought for freedom; however, he was not allowed to become a U.S. citizen, even after he served.

Mosqueda said his father tried numerous times to become a citizen, but his application got caught up in bureaucratic red tape.

Torres was deported to Mexico numerous times for most of his life without his U.S. Citizenship. One of those times because he took the rap for a marijuana drug charge.

After three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan himself, Mosqueda eventually became a U.S. border patrol officer.

He was able to keep an eye on his father until tragedy struck.

Torres was never granted U.S. citizenship, and he died in 2018 — alone in Mexico.

Torres was allowed legally back in the United States after his death.

In the 1990s, immigration policies did not favor tens of thousands of service members like Torres.

The passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 led to the deportation of an estimated 94,000 service members.

They were legal residents who committed at least three misdemeanors. According to the law at the time, that made them deportable.

The policy remained in place for almost three decades until July 2021. That's when the Biden administration introduced a new process to allow immigrants who served in the U.S. military, and were later deported to return to the country legally.

The administration also worked to identify deported veterans and offer them veterans affairs benefits. Those are the same benefits they usually lost after deportation.

Congressman Vicente Gonzalez wants to go further to avoid deportation of many service members like Torres.

"I was absolutely shocked that we would deport somebody who wore our uniform and fought for our freedom," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez's bill, H.R. 4382, would prohibit the removal from the United States of certain veterans and expedite their naturalization.

The bill does not apply to veterans who have committed major felony crimes like murder or rape.

However, it could help treat combat-related effects like PTSD, for displaced veterans.

"They come back home. They're on the edge as you know," Gonzalez said. "They either get into a bar fight and they start using drugs and alcohol, and the next thing you know, they they find themselves in a little trouble and deported many times to a country they really don't know."

While it may be too late for Torres, Mosqueda is hoping the new legislation will help other veterans who have been deported, get the services and recognition they deserve.

More Veterans In Focus stories are available here, along with resources for local veterans.

Contact Veterans In Focus reporter Pat Simon at pat.simon@kristv.com