Most Americans would probably say it’s only fair that a legal immigrant who joined the U.S. military and served their adopted country honorably shouldn’t have to worry about being deported. However, a number of immigrant veterans who ran into trouble with the law – largely for drug-related crimes — have been deported.
Now the Biden administration is working to lessen the number of deported vets and bring some back to the U.S. where many have spouses, children and other family members.
In June, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that if a person is being considered for deportation, their military service and that of their immediate family will be factored into the decision.
The VA is working to contact deported vets
Further, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is attempting to contact some 124,000 deported vets in an effort to restore their veterans’ benefits and help them return to the U.S. They’re also working to ensure that non-citizen vets have this information when they leave active military service as well as the opportunity to become a naturalized citizen while serving.
Some veterans have been deported back to a country they barely remember. Having military training isn’t always an advantage. As one vet who was deported to Mexico because he served time on drug charges says, “You couldn’t tell people you were prior military, because cartels would pick you up….”
Veterans who have been deported can now apply for re-entry to the U.S. While it’s not guaranteed for everyone, their requests are being considered.
Many deported vets’ crimes involved drugs
As one congresswoman who’s been working on this project says, of the deported vets who’ve so far reached out to the VA, most were deported because of drug crime convictions that are now more than a decade old. Some had no criminal history but were deported for other immigration violations.
She says, “The real question before us is whether someone who’s volunteered to serve their country in the U.S. military who gets out and messes up should, in addition to paying the penalty under the criminal law for messing up, also be expelled from the United States.”
If you have a loved one who could be eligible for restoration of VA benefits and return to the U.S., it’s wise to seek legal guidance to help protect their rights and determine the best way to proceed.