Bill introduced to spare veterans from deportation
By RAFAEL BERNAL
A bill to protect immigrant veterans of the U.S. military from deportation was introduced in the House Wednesday. "If we're [deporting] one veteran, that's one too many," Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who introduced the legislation, told The Hill. The bill would allow authorities to waive action against veterans who are documented immigrants. To be eligible, veterans must have served at least 180 days in the armed forces and have no convictions for felonies, significant misdemeanors or more than three non-significant misdemeanors.
Gallego explained the veterans' combat experience, combined with the limitations of permanent residence, can lead to unjust deportations. "They're committing deportable offenses — largely because of PTSD — and being thrown out of this country, sometimes the only country they know. And the only VA benefit they get to retain is to be buried in the veterans' cemetery, but they cannot cross into the United States unless they're dead."
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the bill and a foreign-born veteran, said "it is incomprehensible" to treat service members like criminals. "Any immigrant, documented or otherwise, who puts their life on the line to serve the United States in uniform should be entitled to their VA benefits and a peaceful life in our great nation," Lieu said.
Immigration authorities currently have leeway to readmit deported aliens based on humanitarian, health or similar grounds. The proposed law would specifically add military service as an exception for removal procedures.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), another of the bill's co-sponsors, said, "As a veteran, I know that one’s skin color or immigration status is the last thing that matters on the battlefield. We cannot turn our backs against our immigrant service members who fought to defend our freedoms.”
The number of deported veterans is uncertain, as is the number of veterans subject to removal. Gallego said inspiration for the bill came from his experiences with Deported Veterans Support House, an institution in Tijuana, Mexico that provides temporary lodging to veterans after deportation.