Colorado's American GI Forum Reiterates Opposition to Deportation of War Veterans

Colorado members of the American GI Forum rejected during their annual conference the federal program Secure Communities and repeated their opposition to the deportations of war veterans born outside the United States.

José Martínez, commander of the state AGIF's chapter, said he would send a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper asking that Colorado eliminate Secure Communities, ostensibly aimed at apprehending undocumented migrants who have committed serious crimes.

More than 100 Hispanic veterans met this weekend in Pueblo in the southern part of the state, to take part in the convention organized by AGIF, a group founded in 1948 to represent the interests of Latinos who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

"We don't believe there is enough data to justify this kind of policy," the 63-year-old Martínez said, referring to Secure Communities.

AGIF views Secure Communities as a potential "tool for racial profiling," said the former Army paratrooper.

He recalled that the American GI Forum has a mission to promote the well-being of Hispanic vets. For that reason, he said, the group's Colorado chapters will continue supporting the struggle of Valente and Manuel Valenzuela to stave off deportation.

The Valenzuela brothers, both in their 60s, live in Colorado Springs and both fought in the Vietnam War. Born in Mexico of an American mother and a father nationalized a U.S. citizen, they could be deported because they lack documents proving that they were registered in the United States more than 60 years ago.

On their Facebook page, the Valenzuela brothers said they are going through "some very tense times" whose only relief is attending Mass and being with the family. But they also regretted that AGIF tried to prevent them from carrying a banner referring to their case in the Memorial Day parade in Denver.

"There are many AGIF members we respect. But Dr. Héctor García (the organization's founder) must be turning over in his grave because the organization is more interested in selling beer and putting on beautiful parades than it is about helping veterans," Valente Valenzuela said.

For his part, Martínez answered by saying that an AGIF delegation met recently with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), specifically to discuss the Valenzuela brothers and to ask his help for all veterans who are vulnerable.

State Sen. Angela Giron, Democrat of Pueblo, said during her speech at the AGIF convention that Secure Communities is a "defective" program.

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