Elisha L. Dawkins was born in the Bahamas but immigrated to Miami as an infant. He was brought up believing he was an American citizen and after high school enlisted in the Army, where he served what he thought was his country in both Iraq and Guantánamo Bay. Now he sits in a federal detention center while the the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami prosecutes him for lying on an passport application.
According to The New York Times, Dawkins moved to Miami as an infant with his mother, who was later deported. He stayed behind, though, and was raised by relatives who told him he was a legal citizen of the United States. He even received a birth certificate from the State of Florida and has a social security number.
He enlisted in the Army and served in both Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 2008 after attaining numerous accolades such as the Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, and Combat Action Badge. He then enlisted in the Navy. His service to the country was unquestioned.
Prosecutors now claim, though, that Dawkins was never an American citizen and lied on a passport application. Dawkins applied for a passport in order to serve in Guantánamo. A question on the form asked if he'd ever applied for a passport before. He checked no. That wasn't entirely true. He had begun an application for a passport before deploying to Iraq but never finished the process. That single check on a box is why he now sits behind bars.
"We don't often incarcerate war-hero-type people for making a false statement on a passport application," Dawkins's lawyer, Clark Mervis, told The Times. "It's a case that should never have been prosecuted criminally. This is just wrong."
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Some observers believe the case might be a result of feds pursuing legal action against immigrants for minor passport violations in order to deport them.
"On passports now, they are criminally charging everybody," Ira J. Kurzban, a Miami lawyer and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, tells The Times. "They're even charging people whom they hadn't charged before."
Prosecutors aren't sure how Dawkins received a social security number or was able to obtain documents to prove his citizenship in the first place. His lawyer, however, claims he was raised to believe he was a citizen and did not intentionally try to dupe the armed forces.