Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Velasquez Rascon, who served his country even though he was an undocumented immigrant, is awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest military honor, for saving the lives of his fellow Americans in combat.

Alfred Rascon was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, but his family emigrated to California in search of a better way of life.  In 1963 he graduated from high school and enlisted in the United States Army.  He served in Vietnam, even though he remained an undocumented American the entire time.

During one fierce attack in March 1966, he repeatedly exposed myself to enemy fire and grenades and covered the bodies of my injured comrades before carrying them back to safety and returning to rescue another comrade and then another.  He was wounded in the hip, the torso, and face, but he continued to retrieve, protect, and nurse his injured comrades until the enemy eventually broke contact.  He was so badly wounded from absorbing the blast and fragments of the grenades that he was given his last rites.  He was as close to death as anyone has ever been, but he survived after spent six months in recovery.

He would become a naturalized citizen after he was honorably discharged.  In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Lieutenant Colonel Rascon the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest honor, for saving the lives of his fellow soldiers, his fellow Americans.  Despite his amazing sacrifice and service and the President’s recognition, most undocumented immigrants are not allowed to serve their country and many U.S. soldiers are not viewed as “American.”

All undocumented immigrants are required to register for the draft, and they have been drafted in every war since the Civil War.  While there is not a draft, almost 70,000 foreign-born individuals serve in the military and over 40 percent of them are not citizens, of whom many are undocumented.  More than 100 soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and earned their citizenship posthumously.

The Pentagon has said, “It would be unconscionable not to enact the Dream Act,” which would give hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants children and youths the chance to gain legal status if they attend college or the military.

The Dream Act has not passed, but what is worse is there is not ban against deporting U.S. veterans.  Currently thousands of veterans are facing deportations. Hundreds have already been deported.  The number is increasing due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Many soldiers return home to their country only to face Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or homelessness.   Illicit drug use and other crimes can lead to them being arrested and deported.  The group, Banished Veterans, is leading the call, demanding that America stops deporting veterans.  Jan A. Ruhman of the group had this to say: “I don’t know about you guys but as a veteran, I’m appalled- That somebody who I could serve with, who took the oath to protect and defend and who got an honorable discharge, who came out and made mistakes is now deportable. [...] You don’t leave anyone behind. We were all taught that and I feel like we’re leaving these guys behind.”

Homeland security is trying to deport Valente and Manuel Valenzuela, brothers who both fought in Vietnam and who continue to face PTSD and poisoning from exposure to agent orange.  Their parents are indigenous, and they view themselves as nothing short of American.  These brothers not only want their deportation proceedings canceled, but also their fellow comrades who have already been deported to be repatriated.

The numbers are exponentially greater when considering family members of veterans.  Parents and close relatives of American soldiers have been deported.  This practice makes America’s bravest feel like they fought for their country, yet their country won’t fight for them.  Two wives are featured in an episode of “In Their Boots: Second Battle.”  They tell their tragic stories as they face deportation and struggle to make peace with their husbands’ service, their children’s futures, and their deportations.  One has been widowed and wants to raise her son in America as his father had wished before he gave his life in Iraq.

There should not be two classes of American soldiers- they are all heroes and they are all American.  America should honor their sacrifice and their service and stop deporting them and their loved ones.

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4 responses »

  1. RAY says:

    CORRECTION, I AM ONE OF THOSE HONORABLY DEPORTED VETERANS THAT HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING IN EL SALVADOR SINCE I WAS DEPORTED IN 2008 I AM GLAD THIS ISSUE IS GETTING THE MUCH NEEDED ATTENTION. I LIKE YOUR STORY AND I THANK YOU FOR IT, BUT I WANT TO ADD THAT THE HEADING IS INCORRECT ALL OF US VETERANS THAT WERE DEPORTED AND THE ONES BEING DEPORTED WERE NEVER UNDOCUMENTED, WE WERE ALL GREEN CARD HOLDERS, AS TO GET IN THE MILITARY YOU NEED TO BE A PERMANENT UNITED STATES RESIDENT. I WANT TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGTH FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, WE WERE NEVER ILLEGALS WE GAVE OUR BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES FOR THE COUNTRY WE GREW UP IN AND WOULD GALDLY DO IT AGAIN IF GIVEN THE CHANCE, WHEN IN ICE DETENTION CENTERS WE WERE MOCKED AND DISRECPECTED BY ICE AGENTS DUE TO OUR MILITARY SERVICE. WE SAW UNDOCUMENTED PEOPLE SO CALLED ILLEGALS GO HOME TO THEIR FAMILIES WHILE WE VETERANS WERE DEPORTED TO A COUNTRY WE HAD NOT SEEN SINCE WE WHERE KIDS, THATS WHY I WOULD LIKE PEOPLE TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GREENCARD HOLDER AND UNDOCUMNETED PERSON.

    • Thank you for your comment. Most importantly, Ray, thank you for your service. Please email vamostogether@gmail.com if you would like your story told. If you write about your story, your experience, and what “American” means to you and send it us then we will gladly post it online. We should have noted more clearly in the article that most immigrants serving in the military are legal permanent residents. Our research for the article did show that undocumented Americans had gotten into the military due to mistake or false documentation and that they have since been naturalized (which is possible if they served in active duty) or deported. But these cases are the exception as without the DREAM Act, a draft, or other policy change, undocumented Americans are not supposed to be serving their country. Thank you again. Our prayers are with you. We pray that your situation will change and that your country will wake up, apologize, and welcome you back as a citizen and an honored veteran who defended America. Our source was http://www.ilw.com/articles/2006,1220-stock.pdf

  2. mark A. BAnkus Sr Ret USA says:

    I am a retired disabled veteran of 25 yrs, and I am embarassed to say I am a US citizen. If there is anyway form, shape method that I can help in this manner please let me know. I know for a fact that you have to have a greenm card in order to enter the military and a lot of these veterans where promised citizenship if they completed there tour or stayed in the military. This is not the way to thank any veteran, this coiuntry is going backwards not forwards tiem all veterans stood up said this is enough we are, BAND OF BROTHERS, LET ACT LIKE IT..

    • ray says:

      i just read your comment i still live in san salvador and we have a facebook group called the BANISHED VETERANS made of veterans that are being held in ICE waiting to be deported and by those already deported to countries all over the world. we are trying to change the law and hopely one day return home to our families, but if this is not the case we want at least to stop the practice of deporting veterans. i want you to know that your comment brings back the pride, thanks

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