Deported veteran who grew up in New Mexico hopes for return to U.S.
March 18, 2019 10:25 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Despite serving in the U.S. military, Ivan Ocon was deported to Mexico after he was convicted of a felony.
Ocon grew up in Las Cruces and joined the Army after graduating from Oñate High School.
In 2016, Ocon was deported to Mexico after serving nine years in a federal prison.
“It’s heartbreaking, it’s still heartbreaking now,” Ocon told KOB.
Ocon was living in the U.S. legally when he joined the Army but never went through the process to become a naturalized citizen.
“While you’re in the service you don’t think about ‘oh, I’m going to go look into my citizenship’ because you’re doing Army stuff. You’re training, you’re focused. You’re being a soldier,” he said. “I’m in the U.S. Army, I’m untouchable, you know?”
Ocon deployed to Jordan as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and spent the last years of his service stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso.
He has three discharges — two honorable and one general under honorable conditions.
Court documents obtained by KOB show Ocon was arrested in connection to a kidnapping case after he got out.
“It was aiding and abetting to a kidnapping,” he said. “A family member, a close family member, committed this crime and I was deported for having knowledge the crime was being committed and I didn’t report it.”
Ocon told KOB he pleaded guilty to the crime because he was facing more than 30 years behind bars.
But he didn’t think he’d be deported if convicted.
“The last time I was here in Mexico, I was 7 years old. So they’re going to send me to a country where I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “There’s been a lot of killings here. There’s all this stuff. It just – you just feel betrayed by the same country you served.”
Now, Ocon helps other deported veterans in Juarez file paperwork with the U.S. Dept of Veterans Affiars.
According to Ocon, many deported veterans are eligible for VA benefits but they’re not allowed in the country.
However, new legislation could help bring them back.
The Repatriate Our Patriots Act would allow deported veterans back into the country as long as they’re not convicted of a violent offense or sexual assault.
Congresswoman Deb Haaland is a co-sponsor of the bill.
It’s also being supported by U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.
Torres Smalls sent a statement that said:
“Deporting veterans is one of the starkest examples of our broken immigration system. Men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line for this great country should not have to face deportation when they return home. That’s why I support legislation, like the bipartisan Repatriate Our Patriots Act, to create a clear, accessible path to citizenship for men and women who serve in the military.”
Congressman Ben Ray Lujan said he would only support a pathway to citizenship for deported veterans if they were convicted of a misdemeanor-level offense.
Meanwhile, Xavier Mendez, an immigration attorney, is helping deported veterans, like Ocon, get back into the U.S.
Mendez told KOB, “While that conviction is still on their criminal record, there’s no possibility.”
Mendez is an Army veteran and hopes to see new laws help deported veterans.
“If something can cause significant change and this would and this would allow a vast majority or significant number of deported veterans to come back it would be a change of legislation.”
According to Ocon, the only way he can come back, legally, is if he dies.
“The only way back right now is in death, in a pine box. Then we can go back to the states and be buried at Fort Bliss and get our military honors and all that. Then we die as citizens. Where is the honor in that?”
Created: March 18, 2019 10:25 PM
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