Toronto Film Review: ‘Ready for War’
Three military veterans denied U.S. citizenship and deported back to Mexico encourage audiences to rally behind the fight of their lives.
Cast: Hector Barajas, Miguel Perez, Nathan Fletcher, Tammy Duckworth, Esperanza Perez
By Amy Nicholson
Three years into the Revolutionary War, a desperate George Washington hired German soldier Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben to drill discipline into his ragtag troops. Von Steuben helped win American independence, and for his service, he was granted U.S. citizenship. Ever since, immigrants have enlisted in the military as a path toward legal status, putting their safety on the line for a shot at the American dream.
“I would have given my life for them,” says one vet in Andrew Renzi’s outraged “Ready for War,” a documentary designed to create a stir. The devotion was one-sided. Thanks to a mid-’90s rule change and today’s rising xenophobia, foreign veterans who commit non-violent offenses upon their return to the states are punished three times for the same crime: They’re put in jail, rejected as citizens and deported, often to a county they haven’t seen since they were kids, while being forced to leave their own U.S.-born children behind (not to mention the benefits and medical care they’ve earned).
Take the case of Miguel Perez, one of three subjects Renzi tracks in this personal doc that travels back and forth across the border with ease. After two tours in Afghanistan, Perez, who moved to America when he was 8, returned home with a brain injury. Shortly after, he was arrested for drug possession and locked up for seven years in prison plus several more years by ICE, which is where we meet him via a hidden camera smuggled in by his mom. If deported, he’ll be dumped in Mexico with no family and no money. “It’s like, ‘Thank you for your service — now you need to go,” Perez sighs.