ATLANTA -- Elisha Dawkins is facing deportation and a decade behind bars. His is not the usual deportation case. He is studying to be a nurse, he's a U.S. Army veteran who was in the Navy reserves when he was arrested for what his attorney calls an innocent oversight.
Dawkins thought he was born in America. U.S. immigration officials say he wasn't. He was born in the Bahamas and brought here by his mother. She was deported but his attorney says Dawkins had a social security card and a Florida birth certificate to bolster his belief.
We spoke with Jake Birchfield, a Delta flight attendant who lives in Atlanta. He served with the friend he calls Leo in the Navy Reserves.
Birchfield says he understands rules but this should be a special case. "He has done more for this country than most people will in their lifetimes and he's a young man. The fact that he has gone to the front lines to fight for our country. The government needs to say this is a mistake".
US Senator Bill Nelson of Florida agrees, taking to the Senate floor Wednesday saying, "The U.S. military was certainly glad to consider him a citizen. The Dream Act would allow the U.S, government to consider as a citizen someone like Elisha Dawkins who came to this country as a child and wanted to serve his country."
Dawkins had been deployed to Guantanamo to take pictures for the US military when a warrant was issued for his arrest. The reason? His defense says when applying for a passport he checked 'no', he had never applied for one before. He had partially two years earlier. That mistake is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. It was during his two months in a Miami detention center that US Immigration found out he wasn't a citizen.
It took friends weeks to discover he was in jail, now they're fighting back, including a Free Elisha Dawkins Facebook page. They want him free this Independence Day.
Birchfield said, "On the front lines we're all we have. When one of my shipmates is in trouble I'm gonna stand up because I can to fight for him.
Dawkins attorney said the veteran has until Friday to accept or turn down an offer that could lead to the dismissal of the criminal charges.
We will keep you up to date.