South Georgia Airman is illegal immigrant - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia Airman is illegal immigrant

Liliana Plata Liliana Plata

May 4, 2004

Valdosta-- The woman came to the United States from Mexico 14 years ago, and later joined the military under a false identity. Now she's fighting to stay in the Air Force, and in this country.

Liliana Plata is living her dream in the U. S. Air Force. "I think its the best thing that's happened in my life," said Plata.

The dream started six years ago when Liliana was in high school. "The recruiters said the only way you can join is if you're a citizen," said Plata. But she wasn't.

When she was 10 years old, she and her mother illegally crossed into California from Mexico. "She wanted a better life for us," said Plata. When she was 18, she heard about a man in Los Angeles who could help solve her problems. "He said he could give me these papers, and there's no way they can trace this, because they never reported this girl as dead," said Plata.

Liliana started a new life under a new identity. "I had to go back to high school because I didn't have a diploma under this new name," said Plata. She joined the military and was assigned to Moody Air Force Base. "I'm a security forces member," said Plata, who has already served in Iraq.

Everything was fine for four years, but recently, Liliana's secret came out. The woman whose identity she assumed was actually alive. "I thought this was it, they found out, and I have nothing left."

Now she could be discharged from the military, and deported to Mexico. "To a country that I don't even know, I haven't been there since I was 10, I have no family there, no job, no money."

But what hurts worse is the possibility of losing her life in the Air Force. "It kind of hurts, knowing all the stuff I've done and accomplished is going to be taken away from me," said Plata.

Liliana's commanders have written several letters of support requesting a waiver to let her stay in the military. They expect to get a decision from the Secretary of the Air Force later this month.

Liliana Plata has deployed overseas four times and lead her squadron into several security missions.

posted at 3:10PM by dave.miller@walb.com