U.S. immigration law lets an undocumented immigrant in South Carolina get deported, even if they served in the American military. A U.S. Senator from another state is leading the fight to change that.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth served in the Army during the Iraq War, where she lost both her legs and suffered serious injuries to one arm. During her service, Duckworth says, she served alongside several undocumented servicemembers. Years later, numerous people with undocumented status are still proudly serving in the military. But instead of gaining citizenship for their service, many active-duty servicemembers and veterans are getting deported.
Veterans file for citizenship, get deported anyway
Duckworth recently released a report on the problem. According to the report, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and immigration judges deported at least 92 veterans from 2013 to 2018, though the real number could be much higher. There is a legal process for undocumented servicemembers to pursue citizenship. But during the previous administration, the White House took steps to make this process harder to pursue. In many cases, servicemembers submitted the paperwork, but the Department of Defense and ICE never processed it.
In response, Duckworth has introduced a bill that would give veterans deported for nonviolent offenses like drinking and driving the chance to return to the U.S. and pursue citizenship. Getting convicted of a crime is a common reason why undocumented people get deported. The bill would also extend military benefits, like access to VA medical care, to deported veterans.
We don’t know if this bill will become law. But undocumented veterans and civilians who are facing removal proceedings can turn to an immigration attorney for help.