BY MARYBEL GONZALEZ, KGBT
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CIRCA via KGBT) — A family in the Rio Grande Valley is tangled in an immigration battle after their loved one, a combat veteran, was detained at the Hidalgo Port of Entry.
Edgar Baltazar was detained by immigration officials Feb. 1 after spending the day in Reynosa, Mexico. He was flagged because of his past criminal conviction, for which he received probation.
Now, his family and attorney are asking officials to release Baltazar from the Port Isabel Detention Center, where he’s been for nearly a month, pending his immigration court hearings.
“My daughter, she thinks that her father is not picking her up from the bus because she’s been a bad girl, and that’s not true,” said Jennifer Garcia, the wife of Baltazar and a military veteran herself.
Baltazar has been a permanent resident since childhood, said Carlos Garcia, his attorney. However, legally, the U.S. government does have authority to detain residents if they have committed a crime in the past.
Baltazar was on a deferred adjudication probation and did request permission to leave the country. But Garcia said the federal government’s authority supersedes that of the state.
“We are not asking immigration to not proceed with deportation proceeding against him,” Garcia said. “We are asking for immigration to release him so he can fight his immigration case while he’s not detained and seek the appropriate psychological and medical needs he was receiving before he was detained.”
Baltazar’s wife said he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The issue of deported veterans is not a new one.
Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, has long championed for making the naturalization process simpler for service members and veterans.
In a statement, Gonzalez said: "If you serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and fight for American values, you have a right to citizenship. When the military discharges a legal permanent resident without ensuring that they fill out the proper paperwork for citizenship, I fault the military. ... There is no reason to create uncertainty in their lives when they were willing to sacrifice their own for us."
Baltazar is scheduled to be back in court in March for his immigration proceedings.