Arab-American Paratrooper Faces Deportation After Afghan Service

December 3, 2007

Author: Ed Pilkington

Source: Guardian Unlimited,,2220866,00.html

A highly decorated Arab-American sergeant in the US army, who is currently serving as a paratrooper in Afghanistan, faces deportation on his return to the United States because of an irregularity in his immigration papers.

Sgt Hicham Benkabbou has been served with an order to stand trial for deportation as soon as he arrives home, despite the fact that he has been on active service in Afghanistan for almost two years with the 508th parachute infantry regiment, known as the Red Devils.

His lawyers say his treatment illustrates the harsh justice meted out to Arab-Americans by the US immigration authorities.

Benkabbou came to the US from his native Morocco in 1987, and was granted permanent residency four years ago. But when he applied to become a naturalised US citizen in 2005 - by which time he was already serving in the army - immigration officials discovered that he had failed to register his first marriage and alleged that the ceremony had been arranged fraudulently to get him into the country.

Benkabbou says that the marriage was annulled and argues it is therefore irrelevant to his immigration status. "I do not think I deserve to get deported after serving honourably during a time of war!" he wrote in an email from Afghanistan.