More on Mario Urquia, homeless Iraqi vet

Mario Urquia is presently living on the edge of homelessness in Ogden, Utah - illegal in the nation he once stood to protect.

Urquia said he was given a debit card to access an account where his pay would be deposited. But when he tried to use it to buy food and supplies in Baghdad's Green Zone, it didn't work.

"We all complained, but they said: 'Don't worry, your money will be waiting for you when you return home,' " Urquia said. U.S. soldiers who knew of Urquia's situation would sometimes slip him some cash. Urquia said that money was all he had to spend while in Iraq.

More than a year after he returned, Urquia claims he still hasn't been paid. "Not a single penny," he said.

Arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border last spring, Urquia presented the visa, which was valid through September, expecting to be granted quick passage into Texas. But the world had changed since Urquia last visited the United States. Perhaps wary of the Middle Eastern stamps in Urquia's passport, the immigration officer took out a permanent black marker and voided the visa. Urquia said the officer gave no explanation.

"I said, 'How can you do this? Let me tell you, I went to Iraq for your country,' " Urquia recalled. "And he told me to shut up.'"

"Those who have risked their lives to help out the Americans desperately need a safe haven," said Jen Daskal, an attorney at the nonprofit Human Rights Watch. "Those individuals should be first in line."

[Excerpt of article by Roxana Orellana, Salt Lake Tribune]

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