Two brothers, Manuel and Valente Valenzuela, both volunteered and fought in Vietnam. Fifty years later, they are among thousands of U.S. military veterans, many with distinguished records, who are being deported. The brothers reluctantly put their uniforms on for one last mission; to bring deported veterans and their families back home. It's a quixotic quest that leaves one brother exiled in a foreign country, while the other will go all the way to the White House.
56 minutes | English | HD 16:9 | Color
Closed Captioned | Spanish subtitles available
Valente and Manuel did not know it at the time, but their problems were set into motion almost thirty years ago. The 1980s and early 1990s saw the largest immigration in the nation's history. 22 million people, both with and without documentation, came into the country. Most were from Mexico and Latin America.
In 1996 President Clinton responded by signing the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act. But the new law had unexpected consequences for veterans. With some 50,000 foreign nationals serving in the armed forces at any given time, and with over half a million foreign born veterans living in the United States, the law made many of them vulnerable to deportation.
The new law took away judicial discretion and kept judges from taking into consideration factors like service to the country, family, medals of honor, disability due to military service, and longevity in the country. The law also made minor offenses like shoplifting, driving with an expired license, or possession of marijuana all deportable violations.
After 9/11 deportations skyrocketed. Some veterans, like the Valenzuela Brothers, had minor run-ins with the law decades ago, some committed serious offenses and served jail time, others were simply the victims of bureaucratic errors...but all became deportable.
According to immigration scholars, before the 1996 law came into effect there had never been a veteran deportation.
Today exiled veterans probably number in the tens of thousands, but because no government agency tracks deported veterans, no one knows the true number.
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