U.S. Army Spc. Jack Barrios served bravely in Iraq only to come back to the US with a debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder and learn that his wife, who he refers to as his “everything,” might be deported back to Guatemala.
Frances Barrios was illegally brought to the US by her mother when she was only 6-years-old and wasn’t even aware of her immigration status until high school. Nonetheless, she would have to return to her home country and stay there for 10 years before being able to apply for a US green card to be with her husband and two children. The Los Angeles Times points out that Frances has no criminal record and speaks better English than Spanish.
Frances is not alone. Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney who helped establish the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Military Assistance Program, claims she receives one call a day related to immigration problems. New America Media reports that one commander was almost deployed not knowing if her husband would still be there when she got back. The army ended up being more understanding than federal immigration agents and agreed to let her command her unit from a station in the US. If her husband is deported, she will have to quit the army and move with her family to either Mexico or El Salvador.
Last year, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced legislation — co-sponsored by two Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee — that would give servicemembers’ spouses a path to citizenship. Yet the legislation has its critics. Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, describes the bill as a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) also offers little sympathy, stating “Our soldiers fight and, in some cases, give their lives to preserve the rule of law. It seems ironic indeed that some would propose to disregard the rule of law just as another reward or inducement to serve our country.”
Several widows and widowers of deceased soldiers have also been affected by a draconian policy which allows immigration officials to annul spouses’ permanent residency applications when their US citizen husbands or wives die before the marriage is two years old. A bill that overturned what is often referred to as the “widow’s penalty” passed Congress this month and is awaiting President Obama’s signature.