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Congressman Seeks Second Chance for Vets Facing Deportation

deported vets

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.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

U.S. Veterans Who Lack Citizenship Can Be Deported

Mexican-American_border_at_Nogales

By Debbie Gregory.

A baby born on U.S. soil is automatically granted U.S. citizenship, guaranteed by the Constitution, even if the sole purpose of the parent being in the U.S. is to achieve that goal. So you would think that anyone who enlists in the U.S. military and serves this country would have earned the right to become a citizen.

In fact, joining the U.S. military has always been one of the fastest ways to get U.S. citizenship. About 8,000 troops with green cards became citizens that way last year alone.

But it doesn’t happen automatically. And unfortunately, veterans who did not go through the process of becoming citizens, if they get in trouble, can be deported.

Naturalization used to be part of basic training, but the laws changed. As a result, lots of green card holders went to Iraq and Afghanistan without becoming citizens.

The Obama administration has been aggressive about deporting immigrants who commit crimes, including veterans, although no one knows an exact number.

U.S. immigration law states that non-citizens who commit serious crimes forfeit their right to remain in the country. Deported veterans and their advocates say those who wear the uniform should be treated as U.S. citizens: punished for any crimes they commit, but not deported.

In an ironic twist, although deported veterans are banned for life, they are welcome to return when they are dead. Honorably discharged veterans, even deportees, are entitled to burial at a U.S. military cemetery with an engraved headstone and their casket draped with an American flag, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA will even pay $300 toward the cost of bringing a deportee’s remains to the United States.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.