Report: Brain-Damaged Marine Corp. Veteran Deported Without Lawyer’s Knowledge
An Iraq War veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury during his service was quietly deported overnight without the knowledge of his immigration attorney, according to Phoenix New Times.
Jose Segovia-Benitez’s attorney Roy Petty said he arrived at Arizona's Florence Correctional Center, where his client was held as he awaited a possible pardon from California’s governor, to finish paperwork to reopen Segovia-Benitez’s deportation case on Wednesday.
Petty, who is based in Texas, said he had been in contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for days regarding the meeting. But upon arriving, he learned that his client was gone.
"Certainly, this is a surprise," the attorney said. "ICE kept his deportation a secret. They kept it a secret from him, me, his other attorney, and they kept it a secret from his mother. It's not common practice. Generally, what ICE will do is they will notify the person so the person can make arrangements. They woke him up and put him on a plane."
Segovia-Benitez was awaiting a decision from Governor Gavin Newsom, who reportedly was considering a pardon for the veteran, a Long Beach resident.
After serving overseas, Segovia-Benitez — a native El Salvadoran who came to the U.S. at the age of 3 — “returned home from Iraq in 2004 with a traumatic brain injury from an IED explosion.”
Petty said the veteran “was never treated properly for the many physical and mental issues that resulted from his military service — his brain injury, a substance-use problem, and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
After several run-ins with the law, including a DUI, injury to a spouse and assault with a deadly weapon, Segovia-Benitez spent two years in an ICE processing facility until he was ordered deported in October of last year. He has been fighting to stay in the U.S. since.
Petty said it is still possible that his client can return to America, but it will be a greater challenge. The attorney said he is also worried that harm may come to Segovia-Benitez before his return can be secured.
Gangs in El Salvador notoriously target U.S veterans, and Segovia-Benitez has tattoos including the U.S. Marine Corps insignia and the Statue of Liberty that make him an easy target for kidnapping, torture, or worse.
The veteran has no memory of his home country, having left at such a young age, and does not speak fluent Spanish, Petty said.
"We certainly hope that ICE will correct this problem and allow him to come back to fight his case," Petty said. "What would certainly be horrible would be if he were kidnapped or killed in El Salvador before that."