Lieutenant Colonel Jay Magee is the outpost leader for Point Man International Ministries of Colorado Springs. The Christian group is run by and for veterans, providing resources on everything from PTSD to help with benefits, and education and employment resources.
But there is one issue which has been deeply troubling the Lieutenant Colonel, and that is the case of Manuel and Valente Valenzuela, two decorated veteran brothers who served in Vietnam and have lived in the United States most of their lives. For the past few years, they have been living with a deportation order, which is currently suspended but not resolved.
“They have provided documentation, but the fight is still on,” says Lieutenant Colonel Magee. According to Magee, as well as information on the website We are America, the Valenzuela brothers’ mother is a U.S.-born American citizen whose parents and grandparents were also born in the U.S. She married a Mexican and lived in Mexico where her two boys were born. The family came back to the U.S. when the boys were young. According to several reports, the veterans brothers were told by Homeland Security a few years ago that they had never properly registered as U.S. citizens.
Magee recently saw Manuel Valenzuela on Christmas Day, and he says the issue is taking its toll. “It weighs on him a lot,” he says.
“We have men and women coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan who have been deported,” says Vietnam veteran and veterans advocate Phil Montoya, state coordinator for Point Man International Ministries in New Mexico.
“They have taken an oath, they put their life on the line for this nation,” says Montoya. ”What more do you need? How can you serve in the Armed Forces and immediately get deported and lose your benefits? These veterans feel so betrayed.”
According to reports, some veterans who do not have legal status have been deported following 1999 guidelines which call for deportations following convictions. But Montoya says there are veterans who do not have convictions who are being deported. Veterans like Montoya and Magee are calling attention to this, and their organizations are organizing visits to Mexico to see how they can help Latino veterans who have already been deported.
“If they have served honorably and have already taken an oath to defend the constitution and defend the United States, that’s an oath of the highest order,” says Magee. “Our focus is to help put attention on this issue of deportation of veterans.”
The Valenzuela brothers, who are featured in an upcoming documentary, will go to Mexico along with others from Point Man International Ministries to shed more light on fellow vets who, unlike them, have already been deported.