Vietnam Vet Faces Deportation

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(From left to right, Barbara Williams-Winford, William’s sister, Doris Williams, his mother, Sandra Williams, sister, and Cheryl Braz, fiancée)

Lawrence Williams, 58, contacted the Black Star News in July and alerted us that he was facing deportation to his birthplace – Guyana.  He has been detained since August 8, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) formerly INS, and is being held in the Monmouth, New Jersey prison.

In the late 1960’s, Lawrence Williams legally entered the United States under the sponsorship of his mother, Doris Williams, who worked in New York as a certified nurse and midwife.  Today his mother is very sick and Williams is in a fight for his life. 

Williams’ quest to become a U.S. Citizen led him to an Army campaign drive that targeted people wanting to become U.S. Citizens. “Join the Army; serve the country in Vietnam and your citizenship would be expedited,� he remembers being told. Was this a boldface lie?  “When he wanted to go into the Army I asked him why? His words were, ‘Mommy, it’s not fair to live in this country and don’t serve.’ That is all he would talk about.  Now the country he served is treating him like he is a criminal or something,� his mother, Doris, tells The Black Star.

In 1970, Williams reported to the Army, completed basic training and became a Medic, earned the rank of Private and then was shipped off with Company B, 75th Battalion, 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division based in Quang Tri, Vietnam. He would witness war up close and had to medically attend to countless bloodied servicemen who were injured while engaged in ongoing Viet Cong soldiers’ onslaughts. Many of his comrades wouldn’t come home alive.

One year in Vietnam would become a never-ending mental reoccurrence for Williams. When he returned, going absent without leave (AWOL) was his only way out.  Not being debriefed, not given any medical or mental treatment – Williams would be the first to tell you, “War is hell.�  The U.S. Army did not care about any soldier’s stress level or if they coped.

The Army top brass were more concerned with making soldiers Human killing machines. Williams had a few brushes with the law, one of them leading to dire consequences.  “This guy pulled his gun on me. We struggled and the gun went off killing him,� Williams tells this newspaper, shortly before he's hauled to his current prison. He claimed self-defense to the1983 killing, pled guilty to a manslaughter charge and served two years in a Florida jail. There were several marijuana arrests after 1997, and because of the U.S. Army’s broken promise – INS got involved and began to treat him as an immigrant and applied the 1996 law, which was passed by congress to deport any immigrant who commits “aggravated felonies,� back to their birth country.

So what if they fought in our wars, lived here in the United States for over 10, 15, 30 years?  When they break the law send ‘em all back. The true mindset of an American who never been in any war. After Williams left the U.S. Army he received an, “Under other than honorable conditions,� discharge, but not his U.S. citizenship as promised.
Why is Williams being treated differently? Joe Van Eeten, a Dutch citizen who served in the U.S. Marine Corps claimed to have become a U.S. citizen in a naturalization ceremony before he was shipped out to Vietnam. As a Veteran activist, Van Eeten faced deportation after being convicted in 1995 for selling marijuana and serving 28 months in an Oregon prison, being charged with aggravated felonies under the 1996, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) law. 

A judge sitting on Van Eeten’s case listened to other Vietnam War Veterans who testified about similar naturalization ceremonies and instances of the military losing crucial records. The judge did not rule to deport. What about Williams’ case?  Why can’t the judge handling his case take a hard look?  Someone in the U.S. Army did not do their job – should Williams pay for that too?

Williams is a decorated Vietnam War Veteran who sought medical treatment from the VA Hospital complaining about numerous ailments such as depression, liver damage and upper and lower back pain. Two different doctors have diagnosed him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Guyana does not have the same types of medical facilities that could provide the treatment Williams is required to have. Deporting him would surely serve as a death sentence.

Lawrence Williams’ case is unique and racism for sure has played a large part.  Williams doesn’t need to be deported, he needs to be respected, properly debriefed and medically monitored. Deporting this Vietnam War Veteran to Guyana would be seen as a crime against humanity and the U.S. along with INS will be committing a great crime.

“We want to ensure that the 1996 immigration law will not have an unduly harsh effect on those individuals who have made vital contributions to their local communities here in the United States, while putting down deep roots in our nation and abiding by our laws,� Janet Reno once said. Williams passes that test.

Williams took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and put his life on the line by going into war zone with the U.S. Army – this type of patriotism should never go unrewarded or unnoticed. Consider also the case of Malachy McAllister. McAllister was no U.S. Veteran.

He was a member of the Irish National Liberation Army and served three years in prison for a 1981 ambush outside a Belfast pub, which caused injuries to a Royal Ulster Constabulary officer. He fled to the U.S. after a failed attempt on his family’s life in the UK by masked British Loyalists armed with assault rifles.   

The U.S. government branded McAllister a terrorist and ordered his family’s deportation in 2003. McAllister received a lot of support from politicians and the New York Police Department union. McAllister’s family is here. His wife Bernadette died of cancer in 2004. 

So where is the compassion for Williams, a U.S. Army Vietnam War Veteran? Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? Things are desperate. Williams’ lawyer, Linda Tennen Kushner has filed to have the deportation action deferred. “I made calls, sent emails and could not get anyone to help me but you,� she tells The Black Star News. “It’s worst than a shame, it’s anti-American,� Kushner adds. As we went to publication today, Kushner tells me the Court of Appeals is taking a second look at her filing – yet Williams can still be deported at any moment. In the meantime, I will continue to monitor and update this story. For the past month my requests to interview Williams in the prison has not been granted.

Publisher’s Note: The Williams’ family is asking the Black Star News readers to assist them in demanding the immediate release of Lawrence Williams from ICE custody. Write to: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deportation Officer Francis Kemp, 201 Varick Street, Room 1127, New York, NY 10014; District Director Mary Ann Gantner, Department of Homeland Security, 26 Federal Plaza New York, NY 10278; Alberto Gonzales, Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001 and Diplomat July, Embassy of Guyana, 35112 International Drive, NW Washington, D.C. 20008.

Note to readers: Watch Manhattan cable channel 34 or channel 34 every Sunday at 7:30 P.M. for news updates and other articles.  If you have any comments, contact Winkfield or for consideration regarding covering your own story. Write to or call (212) 481-7745 or On The Spot, Post Office Box 230149, Queens County 11423 or email:  Together we can get the justice everyone just talks about.

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