1) Allow deported veterans to return home to be reunited with their families and communities. Reopen their cases and exercise prosecutorial discretion to terminate proceedings to reinstate their LPR status. Alternatively, parole them back into the United States, as the United States has historically done for other populations of people (e.g. Haitians, Cubans).
2) Repeal 8 C.F.R. § 329.2(d), which is the only impediment to the naturalization of most of America’s deported wartime veterans. This regulation imposes a one year “good moral character” requirement for wartime naturalization even though the statute requires honorable service in lieu of “good moral character.” By imposing a “good moral character” requirement, the regulation imposes a lifetime bar to the naturalization of wartime veterans with “aggravated felony” convictions. Without this regulatory requirement, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of deported veterans would be eligible to naturalize, despite their deportation.
3) Facilitate and expedite the naturalization of deported veterans eligible to naturalize, including by establishing streamlined procedures for naturalization interviews and swearing in at ports of entry or through parole for inadmissible veterans.
1) Adopt a permanent moratorium on the removal of any active-duty U.S. service member or veteran.
1) Repeal the DOD October 2017 policy memos on noncitizen enlistment and N-426 certification of honorable service. These policies were designed to block the enlistment of non-citizens and the naturalization of current service members.
2) Reestablish USCIS’s Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative to allow new enlistees to naturalize upon graduating from basic training, and ensure that the program is available in every basic training site around the country.
3) Reopen USCIS overseas offices and ensure naturalization ceremonies can take place at overseas military bases.
No. The US has relied on immigrant soldiers in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War. For over a century, the government has promised expedited citizenship to bolster its military and add essential skills. According to the Department of Defense (DoD), 44,000 noncitizensjoined the military between 2013-2018. Although they represent 4% of the current Armed Forces, immigrant soldiers consistently score higher on aptitude tests than their native-born peers. In fact, 20% of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients are immigrants. This service-for-citizenship trade makes sense – noncitizen service members often can provide linguistic/cultural skills that the military would not otherwise be able to have.
No. From 1952 to 1988, few veterans were deported. This is because the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 expanded judicial discretion in the form of “Judicial Recommendations Against Deportations” (JRAD). JRAD gave sentencing judges “conclusive authority to decide whether a particular conviction should be disregarded as a basis for deportation”. This rule allowed judges to not to levy deportation when it would constitute “an unduly harsh penalty for the crimes committed”. Immigration judges would often consider one’s military service when deciding whether someone should be able to stay in the country after committing a crime.
The creation of “aggravated felonies” in 1988 and the repeal of JRAD in 1994 opened the floodgates of veteran deportation. Initially, the “aggravated felony” class was supposed to cover the most morally abhorrent and violent threats to public safety. Upon an aggravated felony conviction, noncitizens would face mandatory detention from immigration authorities. However, the classification was expanded over time to include many nonviolent crimes. Without adequate support systems to find jobs and readjust to civilian life, many veterans violated the law to make ends meet. With more veterans facing deportation and fewer legal mechanisms to keep them in the country, veteran removal soared in the 1990s.
The rise in veteran deportations stems from the failure of the government to naturalize them in the first place. Under law, US citizens cannot be deported. But as long as veterans do not have this ultimate legal status, they are vulnerable to forced removal. Under Section 329 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, military members can apply for citizenship after one day of service during wartime.
Given this process, nearly every deported veteran was eligible for naturalization during their military service. However, according to the ACLU, the federal government fails to properly assist noncitizen servicemembers, neglecting to advise them about the proactive steps they need to take. Additionally, many military recruiters mislead noncitizen soldiers to believe that their service will automatically grant them citizenship. These oversights, combined with an overly- complicated filing process, prevent many servicembers from naturalizing while in the military.
Without the protections of citizenship, veterans are vulnerable to harsh immigration laws passed in the 1990s. The unforgiving rules disproportionately entrap veterans, who find themselves at higher risk of violating the law due to service-connected trauma. For example, many ex-servicemembers self-medicate after failing to access adequate care at the VA, leading to possession and distribution charges which trigger deportation proceedings. These transgressions stem from the government’s failure to take care of veterans when they return home. These men and women should never face removal from the country they served. Instead, their struggles show the necessity to double down and take care of them.
The Deported Veterans Support House has contacted hundreds of deported veterans in 53 countries. However, there are likely more deported veterans around the world who are struggling without any help.
For years, ICE has failed to record veterans in its care, even violating its own ruleIn 2004, a memorandum instructed ICE to “inquire about military service” during processing. The memo instructed ICE to review veterans’ military status (years of service, awards, warzone service) and eligibility to naturalize under the INA to slow or cancel deportation proceedings.
Yet, a 2019 Government Accountability Office investigation revealed that the organization did not consistently ask detainees whether they were veterans, track the number of ex-servicemembers in custody, or slow deportation proceedings due to military service. The truth is, we don’t know the number and location of all our deported vets. That’s a problem we’re trying to fix.
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