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The Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act hopes to be the way to do right by veterans that have been deported from the U.S. following their service. Photo: Hyoung Chang/Getty Images

Sen. Alex Padilla leads the push to pass a bill preventing the deportation of noncitizen veterans

Since 1996, about 1,000 U.S. military veterans have been forced to live in another country after their service due to their immigration status.

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On Tuesday, Nov. 10, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Security, announced the Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act to integrate comprehensive reforms across agencies to help prevent the deportation of noncitizen veterans.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Richard Blumenthal, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. Similar legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Mark Takano, Raúl Grijalva and Juan Vargas. 

According to the New York Times, since 1996 about 1,000 U.S. military veterans were forced to live in another country after their service due to their immigration status.

“We cannot disregard their service and sacrifice. The Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act will help keep families together and help keep veterans where they belong — in the country they served and fought for,” Padilla said in a statement. 

The legislation creates the Military Family Immigration Advisory Committee, which will look at a totality of circumstances and make suggestions on whether noncitizen veterans should be granted a stay of removal, deferred action, parole, or be removed from the country. 

It directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine whether an individual in removal proceedings is a member of the armed forces, a veteran or a covered family member – and if so, to transfer their case materials to the Military Family Immigration Advisory Committee. 

The bill would improve the pathway to citizenship for military service members and their families through a program run by the Department of Defense and DHS. 

It also requires DHS to create a program for deported veterans and family members to be admitted back into the states as lawful permanent residents. 

The bill’s introduction arrives after the Biden administration announced a plan in July to allow previously deported immigrant veterans to legally return to the U.S. 

The DHS said it would stop all pending deportation proceedings against veterans or their immediate family members. 

Rebecca Sheff, an attorney at New Mexico’s ACLU, told Axios that this order can easily be reversed by another administration and only new legislation can adequately protect immigrant veterans long term. 

During an Axios Latino livestream event on Tuesday, Rep. Ruben Gallego said he is dedicated to putting an end to the deportations of veterans. 

 

“Many of them are getting deported because of PTSD. a lot of them came back and self-medicated themselves because the [Department of Veterans Affairs] wasn’t ready to accept them,” Gallego said. 

“It’s a disgrace that the country they risked their lives for is preventing them from accessing the benefits they have rightfully earned and denying them the ability to permanently settle into the place they call home. Congress must right this wrong and I’m glad to be working with my colleagues in the Senate to do just that,” said Rep. Takano. 

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