According to the Military Times, as many as 11,800 military families face potential deportation concerns under President Trump's immigration policies.
The estimate comes from American Families United (AFU), a national immigration advocacy group, which had to do some extrapolation of census and other data to come up with the estimate. While it may not be exact, AFU generated the military estimate to “create awareness and get some of these legislators who say they support the military to actually act on it” and recognize that this is a bigger military problem than previously thought, said Nancy Kuznetsov, the group’s military liaison.
So for all of Trump's rhetoric about how he supports the military and the men and women who serve, that apparently only goes so far. Their family members had better not be immigrants because if they are undocumented, apparently they -- or their undocumented family members -- are gone.
Military Times reports that while the active duty members themselves are protected because new enlistees must show proof they are in the country legally, their undocumented spouses are not protected.
An earlier “parole in place” program championed by Vice President Mike Pence to provide relief to military families is no longer being used under Trump's stricter policies, prompting increased numbers of military families to call AFU for help.
“Recently, we’ve seen an increase in cases of both active-duty personnel and veterans who have been failed by immigration law,” reported the organization's president, Randall Emery. “These estimates give us perspective on the problem.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 61,094 people in fiscal year 2017, compared with 44,512 in fiscal year 2016, a 37 percent increase, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Military Times reported speaking to more than a dozen military families who reached out after hearing about 7th Special Forces Group veteran Bob Crawford and his wife Elia, who was facing deportation. After intense media interest, DHS dropped removal proceedings against her. When asked, neither DoD, DHS nor ICE could say how many military families are facing deportation proceedings, because it’s not data they track or report.
Here's how AFU summarizes the problem facing military families:
Our immigration laws unfairly punish and separate the spouses and families of U.S. citizens. The myth of a streamlined process for US Citizens to attain a green card for their spouse is one that is widely held and is completely false. Under current law, administrative violations by a US Citizens immigrant spouse can result in 3-year, 5-year, 10-year, or even lifetime bars from the United States which is devastating for families. Even more surprising, since 1996, these cases have been largely void of any judicial or agency discretion or judgment. Due process for US citizen families is denied, one of the few areas of the American legal system where this is so. As U.S. Citizens who desire to live, work, and raise our families in our own country, we find this unjust and unacceptable. American Families United’s mission is to educate and to work towards legislative change that reverses this little known, but grossly inequitable treatment of U.S. citizens.