WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced legislation to establish a veteran visa program which would permit eligible deported veterans to permanently return to the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident eligible for naturalization.
A 2008 reportissued by the Pentagon estimates that approximately 8,000 noncitizens enlist to serve our nation in uniform every year. While robust data does not exist on the number of service members who are deported for crimes as trivial as marijuana possession, advocates estimatethat at least 2,000 veterans are now living in Northern Mexican border towns.
Grijalva’s legislation comes one week after the American Civil Liberties Union of California released a report entitled “Discharged, Then Discarded,” which highlights how veterans who served as far back as the war in Vietnam were later deported over punitive offenses, largely as a result of two draconian immigration laws passed in 1996: the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.
In April of this year, Rep. Grijalva led his colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) in introducing a Resolutionin Congress urging the update and modification of the 1996 laws.
“The thought that people who have sacrificed so much for our nation’s defense and safety are kicked out with such disregard is utterly appalling,” Rep. Grijalva said. “When someone is willing to lay down their life for the country they love, what more could we want in a fellow citizen? This bill is about ensuring every single veteran, regardless of where they were born, is treated with the same deference and respect that they all earned through their service in uniform.”
The full text of the Veteran Visa and Protection Act is available here.
Cosponsors for the Veteran Visa and Protection Act include: Reps. Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Judy Chu (CA-27), John Conyers (MI-13), Ruben Gallego (AZ-7), Al Green (TX-29), Luis Gutiérrez (IL-4), Ruben Hinojosa (TX-15), Mike Honda (CA-17), Hank Johnson (GA-4), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Jim McGovern (MA-2), Seth Moulton (MA-6), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Mark Takano (CA-41), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Filemon Vela (TX-34), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)
The Veteran Visa and Protection Act is endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Drug Policy Alliance and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.