An Marine veteran was deported to El Salvador on Wednesday – despite spending most of his life in Long Beach, California, and fighting for his country in Iraq as a Marine.
Decorated war veteran José Segovia-Benítez served in the Marines from 1999-2004, earning him several medals and accolades for combat. But after returning from Iraq, the 38-year-old was diagnosed with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury.
While he previously had legal status, he was ordered removed from the United States after serving his prison sentence.
On Wednesday, Segovia-Benítez was expected to meet with his attorney, Roy Petty, at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] detention center in Florence, Arizona, on Wednesday.
Petty had planned to go review documents to re-open the war veteran’s deportation case. By then it was too late was Segovia-Benítez was on his way to a country he left when he was three-years-old.
‘Certainly, this is a surprise,’ Petty said, according to the Phoenix Times.
‘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.’
José Segovia-Benítez, who served in Iraq for the U.S. Marine Corps, was deported to El Salvador on Wednesday. His family sought Governor Newsom to strike convictions from his record
Segovia-Benítez, from Long Beach, CA, served in Iraq for the Marines from 1999-2004
Segovia-Benítez was scheduled to be deported October 16 when he was taken out of an airplane at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport and transferred to the ICE facility in Florence.
The combat veteran, who spent time in jail for numerous criminal offenses, held on to hope that California Governor Gavin Newsom would pardon the Long Beach resident.
Segovia-Benítez was awaiting for lawyers to submit his legal paperwork but he had to wait some additional time because he did not have an attorney in Arizona.
The military veteran had a large tattoo of the Statue of Liberty inked on his rib cage to show his love for his adopted country.
Segovia-Benítez was self-medicating with alcohol and served several years in prison for drug and domestic violence-related convictions, NBC News said.
Segovia-Benítez was honorably discharge in 2004, a year following a brain injury suffered while on tour in Iraq. It was not until 2011 that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Brandee Dudzic.
The executive director of the group Repatriate our Patriots told ABC News that ‘deporting veterans is the most unpatriotic thing I have ever heard of.’
Petty fears Segovia-Benítez will be a target for gangs in El Salvador.
‘What would certainly be horrible would be if he were kidnapped or killed in El Salvador before that. Gangs target former U.S. military,’ he said.
‘They’ll kidnap a person, they may hold a person for ransom, they may torture an individual.’
Segovia-Benítez will spend at least five days in a Salvadoran prison before he is released.
After returning home with PTSD, José Segovia-Benítez was convicted on multiple charges. He was deported to El Salvador, where he hasn’t lived since he was three-years-old
Advocates for Segovia-Benítez reached out to Gov. Newsom in August to pardon his convictions.
Lawyer Thomas Sanchez says Segovia-Benítez should have been charged with misdemeanors instead of felonies for drug and domestic violence cases.
For example, he pointed to an assault with a deadly weapon charge that stemmed from Segovia-Benítez having a screwdriver in his pocket that wasn’t used.
Among his other convictions were corporal injury to a spouse, for which he received an eight-year sentence, false imprisonment, narcotics possession, conspiracy to commit a crime and driving under the influence, ICE said.