California may cover deported vets’ legal bid to return

Andy de Leon thought he was the only one.

Deported to Mexico, the Vietnam-era Army cook struggled to find a way to live in Tijuana —landing in the sprawling border city after serving time for a drug conviction. At age 65 he lost his home in Madera, his car and his family. It’s been years since he’s seen his 10 grandchildren.

De Leon, who notes that he was honorably discharged, is not alone. He is one of an estimated several thousand veterans expelled from the United States since 1996, when deportation of immigrants with certain convictions became mandatory, with no judicial discretion. It wasn’t until their deportations, after serving their time in jail or prison, that many of them realized they were not citizens.

Now state and federal lawmakers are trying to help them. The California Assembly last month approved AB 386, which would direct the state to pay legal fees for certain deported veterans trying to return to the U.S. if they have a California connection. Nobody voted no on the Assembly floor, and the bill is expected to clear the state Senate.

It’s unknown how much this would cost the state, but the bill states that legal aid would be subject to annual funding. Last month the Legislature sent Gov. Jerry Brown a budget that includes $45 million for the legal defense of immigrants facing deportation.

People who make mistakes then straighten themselves out deserve a second chance.

Source: The Mercury News


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