Ed Note: Jan Ruhman, VetSpeak Operations Coordinator, VVAW SoCal Organizing Coordinator, and 2010 President of Veterans For Peace, San Diego, is up to his ass in alligators on this important issue, out in California. To date, he has taken the issue to the recent VFP National Conference, and has been to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on behalf of these Veterans who are now being disowned by the country that they served in war. We are re-publishing this article in full (photos added from Google archives), in the hopes that Huffington Post is as anxious as we are to get the word out, as far and wide as we can, to any and all who will listen. Folks who will perhaps lend some support, either financially, or by contacting Banished Veterans, and offering active, boots on the ground, support. They need money, to finance travel and legal fees; warm bodies to rally, and to lobby, lending personal voices of support for the Victims of this outrage, and their families. You can make personal contact at the enclosed links, and you may make a direct donation to the efforts by clicking on http://www.sdvfp.org/donation.htm. WH
Veterans: Banished and Betrayed
By Barton Kunstler
Author, “The HotHouse effect”
Originally posted at HuffingtonPost, 01/13/2010
x“Banished veterans." The phrase shouldn't make sense. Someone joins the military, fights in a war, returns home, and then is banished? Thankfully, this can't happen here...
But it is happening here. Thousands of men and women who have risked their lives in the country's wars have been deported or are living under the threat of deportation because they committed non-violent crimes that often wouldn't warrant serving jail time. Many of these vets suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition often overlooked by our nation's health care system.
Robyn Sword, an activist on behalf of banished vets whose fiance, Rohan Coombs, is facing deportation for drug offenses, pointed out in an interview that many people simply can't get past the image of a "convicted felon." Who wants them here, right? That might be understandable in cases of violent crime but such an attitude is inexcusable when applied to most banished veterans.
Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, sums up the dilemma that faces so many veterans:
"We sent these kids to war - and war has affected their mental and psychological condition. Providing support for returning veterans is an obligation we owe to those who have sacrificed so much for our country".
But the courageous Leahy and Filner aside, you won't find many politicians willing to risk being called "soft on criminal aliens" - even if they were willing to send those men and women into combat. But the knee-jerk sound-bite reaction doesn't capture the truth of the situation.
No one is claiming PTSD as an "excuse" for someone who commits a non-violent crime, but it is a cause. Nor are any of the banished vets claiming PTSD as a reason for not facing their punishment under the law. They were busted, went to court, served their time. In California, grand theft means stealing $400 or more and is a deportable offense; DUI is also a deportable felony in many states. Felons deserve punishment according to the law. But banishment goes far beyond the bounds of a reasonable sentence. It is absolute in scope, and psychologically cruel. Yet we still insist on betraying people who instead deserve our thanks and the support of whatever social services it takes to support them as citizens, as equals in American society.
Craig Shagin, a Harrisburg, PA immigration lawyer and author of the book, Deporting Private Ryan, describes a client who at 17 years old got into a fist fight in school in Georgia and was given a one year suspended sentence. Eleven years later, after military service, he was arrested for an even lesser offense, but because of the fighting conviction, he became subject to deportation. Had the fist-fight occurred in many other states, he would have gotten probation and would not have been deported.
PTSD is devastating and plays a role in many of these veterans' legal problems. Veterans Administration hospitals are overwhelmed with PTSD cases. The great majority of arrested vets with PTSD have families and friends, jobs, aspirations, and struggles just like everyone else. Half of all Vietnam vets suffering from PTSD have been arrested. Labels might cast them as pariahs, but by now we should be smart and compassionate enough to know that many different paths lead to arrest and that an arrest doesn't define one's humanity.
In the end, the banished vets are "just" a bunch of forgotten ex-soldiers, but fate has seen to it that they're not only to be forgotten, but removed entirely from the nation they served. Director of Homeland Security Napolitano should order an immediate stay of deportation for all vets currently living in the shadow of this cruel and unusual punishment. President Obama constantly pays lip-service to his respect for the men and women of our armed forces. He speaks eloquently of their sacrifice. He plans to send another 30,000 more into Afghanistan. But does his concern extend to this forgotten class of soldiers? Will he show his supporters that he has the courage of his rhetoric? Please, take it upon yourself to call upon President Obama and Congress to grant citizenship and restore the right to live in the United States to these banished and betrayed veterans of our country's wars.
xMore information on this topic can be found at http://banishedveterans.intuitwebsites.com/.
Contact Jan Ruhman to become actively involved:
Cell # 858-361-6273
Contact Legal Team:
Heather M. Boxeth, Attorney-At-Law
Freedom isn't Free, please Donate to assist our campaign against this outrageous behavior towards Veterans who have honorably served their country, the United States of America.