Bill offers pathway to citizenship for deported veterans

Bipartisan legislation reintroduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Rep. Vincente Gonzalez, D-Texas, would create a pathway to citizenship for deported veterans of U.S. military forces.

The Repatriate Our Patriots Act, H.R. 1078, would allow deported veterans who were honorably discharged or released to go through the naturalization process abroad. It would exclude those who have been convicted of crimes such as voluntary manslaughter, murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, child abuse and/or terrorism.

Young said many of these honorably discharged veterans are highly decorated and had clean records prior to service but suffer from PTSD and other combat injuries incurred as a result of their service. Young’s staff also cited data from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus saying that some 3,000 veterans have been deported to countries around the world.  Noncitizens serving with the U.S. military are granted the right to citizenship, but must apply for it, a requirement  some advocates and lawmakers believe isn’t made clear to service members. Veterans who haven’t attained citizenship can be deported if they are convicted of certain infractions, including drug crimes, domestic violence and voter fraud.

Stars and Stripes reported in January 2018 about the Department of Veterans Affairs’ newly- established clinic in Tijuana, Mexico beginning to give exams to determine whether deported veterans have injuries or illnesses connected to their military services. If they do, they could be eligible for government-paid health care and monthly paychecks from the VA, according to the Stars and Stripes report,

Under this legislation the U.S. Attorney General’s office would cancel or rescind a removal order that affects any eligible veterans, and subsequently change his or her status to legal permanent resident. It would also require the Homeland Security office to create a program and application procedure to allow veterans who are eligible and were removed prior to the bill’s enactment to return to the U.S. as lawfully admitted permanent residents.

Those veterans who meet the bill’s requirements would also regain access to all military and veterans benefits.