By Debbie Gregory.
One path to U.S. citizenship is through military service. In fact, joining the U.S. military has always been one of the fastest ways to become a U.S. citizen. The American Civil Liberties Union reported last year that many servicemembers don’t realize their naturalization is not automatic. And unfortunately, veterans who get in trouble prior to completing the process can be deported.
Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), who serves on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is seeking a second chance for veterans who were convicted of crimes and face the possibility of deportation.
Takano introduced legislation that would have the Department of Homeland Security consider a veteran’s moral character and honorable service above a criminal conviction when reviewing their application for citizenship.
The Second Chance for Service Act provides the Department of Homeland Security with flexibility to approve a veteran’s naturalization application despite criminal convictions in their record. It excludes veterans convicted of aggravated felonies, such as murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, child pornography, human trafficking and treason.
The bill, the “Second Chance for Service Act,” would only apply to honorably discharged veterans.
Veteran and immigration advocates have confirmed more than 3,000 veteran deportation cases.
A 2016 ACLU report, “Discharged, Then Discarded,” found that deported veterans were in the U.S. legally, but had sustained physical wounds and emotional trauma in conflicts as far back as the war in Vietnam. Deportation is a lifetime punishment that never would have happened if the government had ensured their right to be naturalized.
“America is a country that believes in second chances, and few deserve a second chance as much as these veterans,” Takano said on his website. “Treating people who risked their lives for freedom so callously violates the respect and gratitude we owe to all who have served.”