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.