Today, Reps. Mark Takano (CA-41), Zoe Lofgren, (CA-19), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Lou Correa (CA-46), Juan Vargas (CA-51), and Raul Ruiz (CA-36) introduced the Veteran Service Recognition Act to prevent the deportation of veterans by making the naturalization process easier for active duty servicemembers; establishing a review process for non-citizen veterans, servicemembers, and their families; and creating an opportunity for deported veterans to obtain legal permanent resident status.
"I have been fighting to prevent non-citizen veterans from falling through the cracks of our broken immigration system for years because it is shameful that they are being exiled from the same country they risked their lives to protect and defend," said Rep. Mark Takano, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "I introduced the Veteran Service Recognition Act with several of my colleagues to provide an opportunity for non-citizen members to obtain legal permanent resident status and make the naturalization process easier for active duty servicemembers, so they never have to experience the fear of deportation to begin with. I won't stop until Congress puts an end to this injustice and ensures that our men and women in uniform are honored for their bravery, heroism, and service."
"Throughout our history, immigrants have served in our military with bravery and distinction. However, all too often, noncitizen veterans often face barriers to accessing the care and benefits they've earned and have even been deported despite their service to our country," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. "I'm proud to join Chair Takano in introducing the Veteran Service Recognition Act which not only keeps our promise to veterans by allowing them to remain in the country but giving those who were unjustly removed the opportunity to be considered to return."
"Immigrants who serve in our military should not have to worry about their immigration status," said Rep. Jerrod Nadler, Chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary. "Every day, these brave men and women risk their lives in support of our country. In return, we must honor their sacrifices by supporting them and their families, and by giving them every opportunity to become U.S. citizens. I'm proud to join to Chair Lofgren and Chair Takano in introducing the Veteran Service Recognition Act."
"Immigrant service members and veterans risk their lives to protect our nation, and America's promise to take care of our veterans and service members should still apply to these individuals. We just celebrated Memorial Day to honor veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice. All veterans and active members gave something to ensure the freedom of our nation, and this bill rectifies a great error against noncitizen service members and honorably discharged veterans in the process of being removed by allowing the DHS Secretary to have discretion to give these veterans the opportunity to remain in the U.S.," said Rep. Lou Correa. "I am proud to cosponsor the Veteran Service Recognition Act to provide an opportunity for noncitizen service members and veterans to retain or apply for legal permanent resident status. This is an issue about justice for our service members and veterans and this bill seeks to rectify the fact that these brave individuals should be citizens."
"Immigrant veterans have risked their lives to keep us safe, and they deserve a pathway to citizenship," said Rep. Juan Vargas. "The Veteran Service Recognition Act is an important step toward giving our immigrant veterans the opportunity to become U.S. citizens. We should not turn our backs on those who put their lives on the line to secure and defend our freedoms. People who serve our country deserve to stay in our country."
"There should be no second-class veterans. If you fight and risk your life for our country, you should stay in our country. That's why, the Veteran Service Recognition Act aims to prevent the deportation of noncitizen servicemembers and gives them a fair shot at a pathway to citizenship," said Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Dr. Raul Ruiz. "The CHC urges Congress to pass legislation to assist affected servicemembers and their families. This bill is a step in the right direction as we send a clear message: if you fight for America, America fights for you."
Immigrants have served in the U.S. Armed Forces in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War. Today, there are approximately 45,000 immigrants actively serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Unfortunately, in many instances, non-citizen veterans have been removed before they can become naturalized as U.S. citizens. Many times, such removals are due to a conviction for a crime stemming from trauma that occurred during the veteran's service in the U.S. Armed Forces. This means that a veteran who risked their life for our country and suffered long-lasting mental health problems as a result may be deported, separating them from their family and preventing them from accessing the benefits they are eligible for and have rightfully earned.
The Veteran Service Recognition Act will:
- Direct the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to implement a program that allows non-citizen servicemembers to file for naturalization during basic training, or as early as otherwise possible.
- Direct the Department of Homeland Security to establish a Military Family Immigration Advisory Committee. This committee will review the cases of non-citizen veterans and active duty servicemembers in removal proceedings and will provide recommendations on whether prosecutorial discretion is warranted, or whether the removal proceedings should continue.
- Provide an opportunity for non-citizen veterans who have been removed or ordered removed and who have not been convicted of serious crimes to apply for and obtain legal permanent resident status if it is in the public interest.