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Wilson to Secretary Napolitano: Release Veteran Dawkins from Detention

For Immediate Release: 6/30/2011
Contact: Mahen Gunaratna, (202) 225-4506

Wilson to Secretary Napolitano: Release Veteran Dawkins from Detention

Wilson: “This is a Man We Should Be Celebrating, Not Deporting”

Officer Dawkins Grew Up in the Heart of Florida’s 17th District, Attending Poinciana Park Elementary and Miami Central Senior High School

Potential Deportation of Veteran a Perfect Example of Why We Need the DREAM Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (FL-17) today sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to request a removal of detainer on former Petty Officer 2nd Class, Elisha Leo Dawkins, who has been held for the past month in a Miami federal detention facility. Officer Dawkins was originally detained for an alleged passport violation. Even if he is released from detention, he is still at risk of deportation based on an order issued in 1992.

Mr. Dawkins was brought to the U.S. as a baby from The Bahamas and was raised believing he was a U.S. citizen, eventually rising to serve in our military with distinction. He grew up in the heart of Florida’s 17th District, attending Poinciana Park Elementary and Miami Central Senior High School.

“This is a man we should be celebrating, not deporting,” said Congresswoman Wilson. “He has bravely and heroically fought for our country and deserves our utmost gratitude. His situation is more than unfortunate; it is inexplicable. I am asking that Mr. Dawkins be allowed to continue to be the type of role model he has always been – here, on American soil.

“This is precisely why we need to pass the DREAM Act. We need comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken immigration system and ensure that incidents like this never happen again to our brave men and women who served in uniform.”

In addition to awaiting a response from Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Congresswoman Wilson’s district office is working closely with all relevant authorities to resolve the case.

The story was first reported by The Miami Herald. A copy of the letter is attached and the full text appears below:


Secretary Janet Napolitano
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. 20528


Dear Secretary Napolitano:


            I write to you today on behalf of former Petty Officer 2nd Class, Elisha Leo Dawkins.  Mr. Dawkins grew up in Miami, Mr. Dawkins went to school in Miami, and Mr. Dawkins served his nation honorably before returning back to Miami.


            I was unaware of Mr. Dawkins’ story before it was published in the June 25th edition of the Miami Herald, but as I investigated further I came to the conclusion that this man is not the type of individual the Department of Homeland Security should be detaining – particularly in light of the June 17th Memorandum on ‘exercising prosecutorial discretion’ penned by Director Morton.  This is a man we should be celebrating.


            Mr. Dawkins came to America as a young child with his mother.  Shortly thereafter, his mother was deported and he remained in America where he was raised.  From my understanding, Mr. Dawkins was raised to believe he had been born in America, and he has consistently expressed this view.  He went to Poinciana Park Elementary School, competed in sports at Miami Central High School, and served in two branches of the military – with distinction.  Mr. Dawkins served in both the Army and the Navy, in Iraq and at Guantanamo.  He is the recipient of the National Defense Service medal, the Armed Forces Reserves medal, the Overseas Service ribbon, the Global War on Terror ribbon, the Iraq Campaign medal, and the Army Service ribbon.  He is all that is right with America.


            Unfortunately, today, he is being held in a detention center.  His detention stems from the fact he purportedly committed a felony by checking the ‘no’ response on a passport application when asked whether he had ever previously completed another.  It is my understanding that Mr. Dawkins began applying for a passport in 2003, but never completed the process when he discovered he was missing required documentation.  His ‘felonious’ act occurred in 2006, a full year prior to being deployed to Iraq.  Before his honorable discharge.  Before obtaining a nursing degree from Florida State College.  Before joining the Naval Reserves.  And, before being sent to Guantanamo to document conditions at the camp.  The fact that he now finds himself in a similar encampment on American soil, so far removed in time from his ‘fault’ and after two tours in the U.S. military, is a tragedy.  


            Mr. Dawkins is not someone who should find himself in a detention center.  His situation is more than unfortunate, it is inexplicable.  I am asking, earnestly, for your help.  I am asking that Mr. Dawkins be allowed to continue to be the type of role model he has always been – here, on American soil.





Frederica S. Wilson

Member of Congress


Rep. Frederica S. Wilson is a first-term congresswoman representing the 17th District of Florida, including Northern Miami-Dade and Southeast Broward Counties. She is a former state legislator and school principal and the founder of the 5000 Role Models for Excellence Project, a mentoring program for young males at risk of dropping out of school.