Veteran Released from Jail Continues to Fight Deportation

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PORT ISABEL – The Army veteran recently released from the Port Isabel Detention Center said he’s hoping to turn his life around.

Gerardo Armijo’s family successfully convinced the federal authorities to free him from jail Monday.

The Purple Heart recipient was put in jail in December. Federal authorities were keeping him there while seeking to get him deported to Mexico on several drug convictions. The law allows them to deport him because of his permanent resident status and several drug convictions.

Armijo intended to be a part of the graduating class from the veterans court program for troubled vets. He couldn’t. “I stand here, before you, humbled and frankly embarrassed,” he said.

Armijo failed to complete the requirements because he was in jail for over a month. However, he still showed up and was invited to say a few words of support.

“In the last couple of days, I’ve received a lot of attention because of the case,” Armijo said. “But this should really be…the eyes should really be on the program.”

In a one-on-one interview, the Army veteran shared how grateful he is to be out of jail. His stay weighed heavy on his mind.

“You’re in a situation where you’re there and just time, is just, you’re just there and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Armijo said. “You continue to…think of your family, what they’re going through. Of course, everybody has a life and that comes to a stop.”

After his release on Monday, the veteran said he was relieved to be with his family.

His troubles started after he returned from his last tour in Iraq. That’s when his tank blew up and he was injured.

“Everything is kind of like yesterday. You always remember things like that, the trauma events and stuff like that,” Armijo said.

Now he’s facing the possibility of deportation. He said it’s taking a toll on his parents.

“They’re still kind of anxious to know what’s going to happen, and of course the case is going to continue. We’re not in the clear yet,” the veteran said.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to the head of the Hidalgo County Veterans Services about the case. He said he would like to see legislation to protect veterans in similar situations from being deported.

"He should have been granted his citizenship as far as I’m concerned. When he was inducted, raised his hand and swore to uphold the Constitution, and protect our country from enemies within or without our borders,” Felix Rodriguez said. “It's not rocket science so I believe citizenship should be granted when a non-U.S. citizen, a person is inducted into service right then and there.”

Congressman Filemon Vela said he agrees something must be done to protect veterans who are non-citizens from deportation. “Without question, we will be working with Felix Rodriguez to see what we can do from a legislative stand point to ensure that veterans, who served our country, are not subject to deportation. Cause I think anybody that has put their life at risk to protect our freedom should not be subject to being deported, regardless of what their situation might be,” he said.

The congressman said he plans to take the next day or so to review possible solutions to come up with a plan.

Meanwhile, Armijo said he plans to finish his requirements with the veterans court program. There he receives counseling and a variety of other services to help him get back on track.

Rodriguez said he personally knows a handful of veterans, who live in Hidalgo County, who are in a similar situation like Armijo. He said there could be more that he’s not aware of.

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