Jorge Salcedo legally came to the United States from Peru at the age of 14 with his family. As a green card holder, Salcedo enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1994 at the age of 18 and served for eight years. He was honorably discharged, his family said. He married a U.S. citizen named Cindy and together they live with their two U.S.-citizen children in Connecticut; an earlier child was lost because of a genetic defect. After he left the military, Salcedo developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after seeing a fellow soldier die during a training accident.
“He joined the military because it was the honorable thing to do,” his wife Cindy LaPointe-Salcedo told ThinkProgress on Friday. “Once you move and live in a new country, you grow to love it.”
Salcedo had depression and tried to self-medicate with alcohol, which led to an alcoholism problem. He has a criminal record stemming from two DUIs and a 2003 conviction for spitting on a police officer. According to the Hartford Courant, “Salcedo was released Wednesday after completing his sentence and was immediately notified that an immigration judge had ordered his deportation.” Salcedo was transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody on Thursday morning. The newspaper spoke with an advocate who indicated that Salcedo’s lawyer would likely file an appeal. Still, any day now, Salcedo, a U.S. veteran, could be deported back to Peru.
The immigration activist group National Day Laborer Organization Network (NDLON), which is petitioning for Salcedo’s release from ICE, explained that he “pled guilty to ‘assault on a police officer’ for the spitting incident and wasn’t warned by his lawyer at the time that he could be deported for that plea because his lawyer assumed that Jorge was a U.S. citizen. Jorge has apologized to the police officer and is ‘sorry for everything that I have done and to anyone that has been affected by my drinking.’”
LaPointe-Salcedo said that her husband is “an active father” who attended lacrosse games and parent-teacher conferences prior to his sentence. Once, her husband brought home a playhouse that he set up in the backyard for their three-year-old daughter Chloe. “And there it was waiting for her,” she said. “He told me, ‘don’t wake her up yet! Don’t wake her up yet!’ It was great and it kept her busy. He’s just that type of dad.”
LaPointe-Salcedo said that she has begun to see the impact of her husband’s potential deportation on their two children. During a rally for her husband at a federal building in Hartford, Connecticut on Thursday, her 16-year-old daughter Kaelie became “very withdrawn and quiet and asked, ‘what happens now? How am I going to see dad?’ Chloe sits by the window, waiting for her dad, asking if daddy will come home. It really hurts them.”
Immigrants, both undocumented and those with legal status, who plead guilty to some types of criminal conviction could trigger their own deportation proceedings. In most cases, people plead guilty to minor drug crimes to avoid prison time and to clear their records. The federal Immigration and Nationality Act requires that immigrants who have certain kinds of convictions to be ineligible to receive visas and be ineligible to be admitted into the country. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Padilla v. Commonwealth of Kentucky that criminal defense lawyers have to warn defendants about the deportation risks of a guilty plea.
What happens now? How am I going to see dad?
But in Salcedo’s case, his wife explained that his public defender allegedly didn’t ask if he had a green card. The public defender “assumed that because of Jorge’s military service that he had citizenship, so that was clearly something they shouldn’t have [advised him on].”
In November 2014, President Obama said that the administration would go after “felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.” The adjoining deportation memo from the Department of Homeland Security prioritized immigrants convicted of aggravated felonies, including some misdemeanor crimes like driving under the influence.
Advocates have since criticized the administration for going after immigrants with years-old minor records and families in the United States. In March, immigration officials arrested more than 2,000 convicted criminal immigrants in a week-long raid, but nearly half, or 960, of all the “worst of the worst” offenders were individuals whose most serious crimes were misdemeanors. Some of those immigrants finished their criminal sentences years ago and have since turned their lives around.
There aren’t publicly-released estimates of the number of veterans that have been deported, but at least one group estimates that there have been thousands since 1996. Army veteran Hector Barajas runs the advocacy organization Banished Veterans, which helps deported veterans settle into a country that some individuals have not seen since they were children. After he honorably served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, Barajas fired a weapon in an incident with someone, an event that he told ThinkProgress was induced by PTSD.
That incident led to Barajas’ arrest and triggered his deportation proceedings, he said. He went to jail for three years, then was put in an immigration detention center for a year before being deported. He received a 20-year reentry ban. Soon after his deportation, he was caught coming back to see his young daughter. Barajas received a lifetime ban that time. The permanent ban was prompted by his illegal reentry, the “most commonly recorded lead charge brought by federal prosecutors” against immigrants in 2011, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) reported, in a trend that has dramatically increased since 1992.
Love has no borders.
Last October, Barajas told ThinkProgress through a border wall separating San Diego, CA with Tijuana, Mexico, “It hurts me to be separated from my nine-year-old daughter. Everyone in my family is a citizen. It’s my country. It’s all I know. Mexico is where I was born and I’m getting to know it because I have no choice. I miss my family — that’s the hardest thing — the separation from your family. Love has no borders.”
LaPointe-Salcedo and her daughters have since moved from a house into her in-laws’ basement, stating, “a basement is not a home, but it’s better than being homeless.” She said that the immigration judge said her husband wouldn’t be allowed back into the country for another 20 years.
“At that point we’re going to be 60.”