Veteran booted from country he once served due to crimes - CBS46 News

Veteran booted from country he once served due to crimes

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GWINNETT COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -

A mother's anguish over the treatment of her son was on display as he joined a growing number of people being booted by the country they once served.

As the new commander-in-chief says he's committed to deporting criminals, CBS46 is uncovering that a growing number of veterans are also being deported by the country they were willing to die for.

"I went to war to defend the country, we went to war to defend the country," says Jeffrey Brown.

He fought on the front lines of operation Iraq Freedom. Having served with distinction, he was honorably discharged in 2004 from the U.S. Army.

We reached him over Face Time in his native Jamaica.

"I'ts an honor, it's an honor that I served," says Brown.

But his heroism wasn't enough to keep him from getting deported by the same country he was willing to die for.

"Thank God he came back alive," says his mother. 

We met her at her Gwinnett County home, where she proudly keeps her son's Army uniforms. 

"I could tell right away," she says. "Jeffrey came back messed up...it started going downhill. Things started going downhill."

Like so many other veterans coming home from the War on Terror, Brown was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress and Bipolar Disorder.

"He was having problems, like making shouts at night when he was sleeping," says his mother.

When asked if her son ever suffered from the conditions prior to going to Iraq, his mom said, "Oh no. Jeff was a normal kid, bright in school, always on honor roll."

Back from war a different person, Brown started having run-ins with the law, first getting arrested for possession of marijuana and obstruction.

"Then he came back out and got arrested again," says his mom.

Charged with armed robbery and violating his probation, he ended up in jail again, but this time there would only be one way out.

"ICE put a hold on him," says his mom.

Born in Jamaica, Brown and his mother immigrated to the United States when he was just a little boy. He was a legal resident holding a green card when he enlisted in the Army. His criminal record now put him at risk of deportation.

"I didn't actually expect it to happen," says Brown.

But it did. 

In 2012, he was deported to Jamaica by the same country he fought for.

"It's so unfair," says his mom. "Jeffrey went through so much, too much...it's so unfair."

Like all other non-citizens who serve, Brown had an opportunity to become a U.S. citizen but he says he never felt he had to.

"You take an oath to protecting your family, your nation from enemies abroad and within, so it doesn't make rational sense for someone to believe that you have a bigger obligation or connection to your land of birth," says Brown.

Brown is not alone. The Department of Homeland Security doesn't keep a count, but a report from the American Civil Liberties Union says there are at least 250 veterans nationwide who've been deported for committing a crime.

The Department of Homeland Security declined to speak to us on camera, but emailed me a statement claiming the punishment is justified, saying in part:

"ICE specifically identifies service in the U.S. military as a positive factor that should be considered along with other factors...Still, applicable law requires ICE to mandatorily detain and process for removal individuals who have been convicted of approved felonies."

Bridgette McCoy served in the Navy and is a veteran's advocate. She believes deportation is too harsh of a punishment for a veteran, especially for those who've been diagnosed with mental disorders, like Brown.

Because he's out of the country, he says he has no access to VA medical care for his PTSD and has gone without it since he was kicked out of the country in 2012.

"To know that someone fought and served the American country, went and served and fought honorably...that's just wrong on so many different levels," says McCoy.

Brown says without medication, dealing with his mental disorders is a daily struggle. And while he says he feels betrayed, he does not regret serving the country he still calls home.

Because of the system that's in place, immigration attorneys with the ACLU say in cases like Brown's, these veterans have no legal recourse to return to the U.S.

There is currently a group of legislators in California who are trying to lobby congress to do something about it.

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