United States Prior-Service Personal being mis-treated by Homeland Security?

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Are United States Prior-Service Personal being mis-treated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services?

A U.S. Veteran has written us with his plight

My name is Raffaele Di Giorgio and I am writing this letter to bring to light the way United States prior-service personal are treated and mis-treated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.                           

I have tried for the past year to work on the issue of my citizenship with various offices of USCIS and have been led down one misguided path to another. I have been treated like I am asking for a hand out by people who have never even served in the Armed Forces. When I get to the point where I mention going to a Congressman or woman or asking for an Ombudsman, the standard reply is well that could delay the processing of your case, which I have learned is their way of keeping everyone in line. 

A quick and short history, I served on active duty from 1987 to 1991, during that time I took part in Operation Just Cause and Desert Shield/Storm.

Immediately after Just Cause I was informed by 82nd Airborne Judge Advocate Generals office that under an Executive Order, I was to have an expedited naturalization process.  Before this process was completed we were deployed to Desert Shield/Storm. Famous last words Don’t worry son when we get back, the Army will have your Naturalization worked out. 

     

Sure enough when we returned the Army gave me two letters that stated I had been Naturalized.

This went well for the next decade and the letters served me well. Then post 9-11-01, I joined the Army National Guard. Questions were brought up about these letters.

So I proceed on a fact-finding mission, I contacted Mr. Storr at the Ft. Bragg legal office (phone No. 910-432-0187) who is the coordinator for the 82nd Airborne Division citizenship legal office. Mr. Storr informed me that he could not confirm that my naturalization occurred and that I would need to re-apply. He stated that unfortunately this was not that uncommon during the time frame for us that served in both Panama (Operation Just Cause) and in the Middle East during Operations Desert Shield and Storm.

Living in Alaska at the time I contacted the Anchorage INS office and was told that this was the case and that I was not a citizen.

So I discharged from the Army National Guard since any good job required citizenship.

The Anchorage office informed me that I should apply by way of the fact that I have been a resident for more than five years since prior military service takes longer to process.( I guess I should have asked why)

Ok wife gets transferred to Las Cruces, NM, so I file (Texas service center) like I was told and I wait. Then I am notified to go for fingerprints and I wait. I keep an eye on the processing time for El Paso (via the USCIS web page) and I notice that I am falling behind their average times. At this point I call the national 1-800# for USCIS I finally speak to someone and am told that they are waiting for me to go for fingerprinting, as this is now March and I was fingerprinted at the end of Dec., I ask how could this be? I am told to call back in thirty days if I hear nothing from them.

I receive nothing so I call again; I am informed that they have the prints and that I should just wait.

So now as I read through the USCIS web page I see that Section 329[8U.S.C. 1440] reads completely different then what several USCIS officers have been telling me to this date. I call the 1-800# again this time I am told that it was my responsibility to know how to apply and what would be the best route, if I wanted to re-file under the prior service I would have to start all over again and No I do not get my filing fee back.

My final question of the day was Do you have a telephone number for prior-service or active-duty military to call? The answer is NO. So I asked Is there no one that specializes in prior combat veterans, again I am told NO.

My final statement was So let me make sure I understand this, your agency has not one person assigned to help veterans, but spends millions of dollars to make sure the majority of your employees speak Spanish and have forms in Spanish. The operator then hung up the phone. My point here is not picking out Spanish-speaking immigrants; it is to try and understand where prior service fit in. How many of us, does there have to be before we get that kind of specialized treatment?

This was now going nowhere, so on 5-31-05 I made an appointment to go to the El Paso USCIS office on Hawkins Blvd.  During my appointment, I was referred to Ms. Chavez who informed me that the El Paso office is waiting for my file from the Service Center and that they have requested it three times. She made a temporary file from the copies of everything that I had brought with me. While waiting for Ms. Chavez, I spoke to some other people sitting next to me and they informed me that if I can get an employer to state that I will be fired from my job USCIS will expedite the process. So I ask Ms. Chavez when she returns and lo and behold it is true. So what was the sense in me serving my country?

When I arrived home I called the 1-800# again, this time they inform me that they are waiting for the file from the El Paso office, so again I have been lied to. Either by the El Paso office or by the 1-800# really doesn’t matter which one anymore.

I make another appointment; I am told once again that El Paso is waiting on the service center and vice-versa. I ask the woman behind the glass if there is someone who handles the military applications, and again NO. Can she give me any information on Section 329? Again the answer is No.  Do you have an Ombudsman line or representative? Answer never heard of him.

In closing, I would like to ask a couple of questions;

  1. Why is it that non-English speaking resident aliens deserve so much more attention and accommodations, than the United States Combat Military Veterans?   
  2. Why is it that part of the citizenship oath states that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Is administered the majority of the time by someone who hasn’t had to do so?

I feel that it is a slap in the face to tell a US Combat veteran that he or she is not a citizen until they take such oath. Most of us will be US citizens by choices that we were willing to die for, not by the luck of where our mothers dropped us, and we have already have defended the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

I have had the opportunity to watch a lot of people who have had the good fortune to be born US citizens fill our jails and never serve a day in duty to this country and yet, veterans do not rate high enough to have one officer assigned to their cause.

Why is it that I am good enough to serve and die for this country but not to get a federal job?

How is it that the USCIS officers that hold me to a standard of not lying, under plenty of refusing or denying my citizenship can lie to me all day long? Is this the standard we set for our USCIS government employees?

How can it take longer to process a Service members file than someone who has never served, you have our history, don’t you?

As far as State Representatives and such, all I can say is that I have tried calling several in this area and have been made to feel like a transient window washer at a four-way traffic light looking for spare change.

One thing I do have from my military years is some pride. I will not have some intern or receptionist dismissing me as oh it’s another person wanting to become a citizen. If this does not apply to your office then I mean no disrespect to you or yours.

I do not feel that I should have to beg to become a citizen; I feel that the government loved using us as poster boys when they needed to put a positive face on Military service or Immigration issues. Then they dropped us like so much used garbage.

All I am asking is that the United States Government keeps its word to its veterans.

Thank you for your time and patience in reviewing this matter.

Raffaele Di Giorgio can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]

VT also invites you to post your messages on this issue on our forum at https://www.veteranstoday.com/fortopic28.html&sid=d8a540e0f671157883a15744badaa295


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