From his kitchen table in Italy via Skype, deported U.S. Army veteran Arnold Giammarco said the years apart from his family have been “devastating.”
“It’s tough,” said Giammarco, a legal non-citizen veteran of the Army and National Guard, during a Skype interview with C-HIT. He was deported in November 2012 for nonviolent drug and larceny convictions for which he had previously served jail time. “You can’t hold your wife,” he said, dabbing tears from his eyes. “You can’t hold your daughter.”
Giammarco, 60, had lived in the United States since he was 4, but never became a citizen. In 2011 federal immigration officers arrested him at his home in Groton and detained him for 11 months, then deported him. He has been fighting to return to Connecticut ever since, with the help of free legal representation from Yale Law School clinics.
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.
After honorable discharges from the Army in 1979, and the National Guard in 1983, Arnold Giammarco sunk into a pattern of substance abuse, shoplifting and jail before turning his life around, marrying in 2010, and becoming a father. But the Italian-born Giammarco, 57 – one of thousands of legal residents who serve in the U.S. military, despite lacking citizenship – now counts the days away from his family in Sulmona, Italy, after immigration authorities abruptly took him from his Groton home to a detention facility in May 2011 and deported him to Italy last November. Today, (Nov. 12) Giammarco filed a lawsuit to compel the government to rule on his 1982 citizenship application, which he says was never processed. Mark A. Reid of New Haven, 49, spent six years in the Army Reserve before his honorable discharge in 1990 and still speaks about being “willing to die for this country.” Now he sits in a Massachusetts jail, facing deportation to his native Jamaica because of four drug convictions including sale of narcotics and possession of heroin. Last November, immigration officers moved Reid – who came to the U.S. at age 14 — to Immigration Custody from the Brooklyn, CT jail where he was serving time for what he described as “a $30 drug sale.’’
The two men are among what veterans’ advocates say is a growing number of noncitizen military veterans who are being deported for crimes for which they served time years earlier. Giammarco moved to the U.S. at age 4.