Opinion: Trans Troops Debate Reminds of Deported Veterans' Struggle

Image: A veteran kisses his daughter
Deported U.S. Marine Corp veteran Mauricio Hernandez, who served in Afghanistan, kisses his daughter Emily Hernandez as he visits the Deported Veterans Support House.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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By Stephen Nuño-Pérez

The public outrage following President Donald Trump’s flippant and amateurishly dictatorial tweet attempting to ban trans persons from the military is a reminder of how fragile the rights of minorities can be. Politico reports that a “...behind-the-scenes GOP brawl threatening to tank a Pentagon funding increase and (border) wall construction hastened Trump’s decision" and his tweet announcing it.

This is a revealing moment that further clarifies how the president views the rights of minorities, that civil rights are negotiable, but it also illustrates how little respect the president has for the military itself.

The decision by the president was short-sighted, small-minded, and, ultimately, what defines Trump. Orrin Hatch, a conservative Republican senator from Utah responded to the decision by stating that, “Transgender people are people and deserve the best we can do for them.” In a response to a question posed on Twitter asking Utah lawmakers if they stood by transgender Utahans, Hatch's response was, simply "yes".

The president's decision, and the ensuing firestorm, was not a fight over military or foreign policy, but a fight over the nation's recognition of one's dignity. Citizenship is more than a card, or a birth certificate, but it is fundamentally about the recognition by your neighbors that you are a member of the same family, due the same respect and love as everyone else.

This struggle for recognition continues, and it is a reminder that trans persons who serve their country are not alone. Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, Don Young, R-Alaska and Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, introduced on Thursday the Repatriate Our Patriots Act, a bill that would bring home deported veterans and expedite their citizenship application process.

Theirs is one of several bills introduced to end and undo deportations of some military veterans who had legal permanent resident status when they were welcomed to the ranks of service members and went on to serve their countries.

Over the years, undocumented immigrants who have served this country honorably have been deported because of their status. The response to this outrage by the country has been, to say the least, tepid.

And yet, some representatives continue to fight. “These veterans served our nation honorably,” says Gonzalez. “This legislation is our chance to bring back our deported veterans and make sure that the federal government takes better care of all those who put their lives on the line for our freedom.”

Recognition of one's humanity, let alone appreciation for one's dedication and service, would go a long way in making America great. Trump survives off the exact opposite of this and continues to feed his flock a steady gruel of division and anxiety. Standing together against these worst reflexes of humanity continues to be our greatest challenge, and together is the only real way we will triumph.

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