The Department of Homeland Security has offered to drop the proceedings that could have led to the deportation of a U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group veteran’s wife, the family’s attorney announced late Thursday.
The case came to light in a Military Times exclusive that reported how retired Sgt. 1st Class Bob Crawford, an Army Ranger who spent the latter part of his career with 7th Special Forces Group conducting counter-narcotics missions in Latin America, was fighting to keep his wife Elia from being deported.
The family faced an immigration court hearing Monday in Arlington, Virginia, that could have led to Elia’s deportation. Elia Crawford entered the country illegally in 1999. As a military spouse, she is eligible for a provision known as “Parole in Place,” that allows her to seek legal status in the U.S.
In the last year however, there has been a chilling effect on receiving those exemptions, said attorneys for the Crawfords and other military families facing the same predicament.
“We are now at a crossroads that could make or break this family,” said attorney Leticia Corona. “The latest development in this case is that we were contacted today by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Chief Counsel who offered to dismiss deportation [removal] proceedings.”
“Once the judge approves the dismissal, this would allow Mrs. Crawford to pursue permanent legal status. While we are encouraged by this latest development there will still be a long road ahead.”
After the Crawfords’ story published, Military Times was contacted by several other families also facing the deportation of a spouse. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has previously said that service members and veterans would be protected from deportation due to an agreement he came to with the DHS, but it is not clear if that new agreement would extend to family members.
“This is just one example of what many military families across the country are experiencing as they, too, try and keep their families from being torn apart,” Corona said.
“We feel passionately about this issue coming to light because of the many sacrifices our military makes as they protect our country, as well as the sacrifices their loved ones make as they offer support and manage without family members while they are deployed. We are hopeful for a positive outcome in this case that will also help other families across the country dealing with the same issues.”
Tara Copp is a Pentagon correspondent for the Associated Press. She was previously Pentagon bureau chief for Sightline Media Group.