An Army veteran deported to Italy nearly years two ago is attempting to return to his Connecticut family by seeking a pardon for drug and larceny convictions and a humanitarian parole that would let him go home for a year.
Arnold Giammarco, a former Army sergeant who served in the military as a legal noncitizen, had lived in the United States for 53 years before his deportation in November 2012. The deportation action came years after he had been convicted and served time in jail. Giammarco had turned his life around by giving up drugs, marrying, becoming a father, and holding down a job. His wife and family have been fighting for his return. He has a five-year-old daughter and elderly, ailing parents.
Giammarco is part of a growing number of noncitizen military veterans who have been deported for crimes for which they have already been punished. Noncitizens have served in the military throughout the country’s history.
A Yale Law School clinic, which is representing Giammarco, submitted the pardon application today to the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles and filed the humanitarian parole request with the U. S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services in the Department of Homeland Security.
Giammarco has previously applied for a pardon and appealed his deportation, but was unsuccessful in both efforts.
Yale Professor Michael Wishnie, a clinic supervising attorney, said if a pardon is granted this time, it would remove the basis for Giammarco’s deportation and potentially prompt federal immigration officials to allow his permanent return home. Wishnie said otherwise, the law clinic would ask a court to vacate the deportation order.
Humanitarian parole is granted for a maximum of a year at a time, but can be renewed, Wishnie said. It is only approved in certain circumstances, such as medical emergencies and family reunification, according to the Homeland Security website. About 25 percent of applications are approved, the website states.
Giammarco, born Arnaldo, seeks to be reunited with his wife, Sharon; his five-year-old daughter, Blair; and his parents. His father, Leno, 91, suffers from dementia. His mother, Elena, 84, has a terminal heart condition. Giammarco moved to the U.S. from Italy at age four, grew up in Hartford, and was living in Groton in May, 2011 when he was taken by immigration authorities to a detention jail, before being deported 18 months later. His wife, an addiction counselor working three jobs, now lives in Niantic with their daughter. His parents live in Rocky Hill.
Last November, Yale filed a Federal lawsuit on Giammarco’s behalf for him to obtain citizenship. He has been a legal resident since he moved to the U.S. He applied for citizenship in 1982, but maintains that the government never processed his application. He considers his file still open. For its part, Citizen and Immigration Services contends that his application was incomplete.
Giammarco served in the Army from 1976 to 1979 and the National Guard from 1980 to 1983 and received honorable discharges. According to Erika Nyborg-Burch, a Yale law student, the Obama administration has deported two million people. Homeland Security “should bring this veteran home,” she said.
Giammarco’s pardon application has been bolstered by state’s attorneys in Connecticut, who have decided not to oppose it. Deputy Chief State’s Attorney Leonard Boyle wrote to Yale clinic lawyers saying that “the relevant state’s attorneys all have weighed in and have agreed that the Division of Criminal Justice does not oppose Mr. Giammarco’s pardon application.” He gave permission for that position to be presented to the pardons board.
Giammarco’s efforts to return home received support from two organizations representing veterans and immigrants. Garry Monk, executive director of the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress, said “we urge the government to permit an upstanding veteran to return to the country he served honorably, the family that needs him, and the only home he knows.”
Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA), an immigrants advocacy group, agreed. “ULA hopes that the government will undo the harm that deportation has done to this Connecticut family and their community,” said John Jairo Lugo, a spokesman. “Mr. Giammarco represents hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have no significant criminal record, yet have been needlessly separated from their families.”
Sharon Giammarco said “Arnold has proven that people can transform their lives and the lives of the people they love. My daughter and I need him home so that we may continue to grow together. He has suffered enough and I pray that this pardon will give him another chance.” Giammarco converses with his family by Skype, even playing the card game “Go Fish” with his daughter. His wife and daughter have visited him in Italy.
Last November, C-HIT reported on efforts by Yale Law clinics to free Giammarco and Mark A. Reid, an Army Reserve veteran, who was being held in detention and fighting his deportation. Reid was freed on bond in February, while he fights his deportation to Jamaica.