October 12, 2017

Castro, Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Urge Congressional Armed Services Committees to Assist Deported Veterans

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), First Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and 21 fellow Caucus members sent a letter to Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Mac Thornberry (TX-13), and Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), requesting the implementation of a temporary, two-year program offering assistance to foreign-born service members, including those who have been deported after their service. Rep. Castro and his colleagues ask for the program’s inclusion in either the legislative authorization or report language in the Conference Agreement to accompany the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

As of January 2017, there were 10,644 noncitizens currently serving in the U.S. military and an additional 11,524 noncitizens under reserve status. The greatest numbers of lawful permanent resident (LPR) service members come from the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica, South Korea, and the Dominican Republic. Overall, there are about 608,000 living foreign-born veterans of the U.S. armed forces from nations around the world.

“Anyone who honorably risked their life to defend our freedom should not be subject to removal from the United States and separation from his or her family,” said Rep. Castro. “Many LPRs serving in the military have every intention of becoming citizens, but don’t realize their naturalization isn’t automatic or don’t know when deadlines in the process are approaching. Through the NDAA, Congress can provide these men and women a new opportunity to complete the naturalization process and receive the citizenship they earned. For some veterans, this program would be especially life-changing, allowing them ultimately to return home to their loved ones and the nation they courageously served.”

On June 3, 2017, Rep. Castro led six other members of Congress to Tijuana, Mexico to meet with several veterans whom the United States deported. Video from that visit is available here: LINK

Specifically, the members request that the NDAA:

(1)   Allow the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to process unfulfilled naturalization applications for eligible, foreign-born service members under the existing Military Personnel Citizenship Processing and the Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Acts dating back to February 28, 1961 based on the applicant’s initial date of application and original conditions of eligibility;

(2)   Direct DOD, in conjunction with USCIS, to reopen or accept the resubmission of naturalization applications from foreign-born  service members that were denied, administratively closed, or abandoned because an individual was unable to follow through on the naturalization process because of the circumstances of their military service dating from February 28, 1961 to the date of enactment of the 2018 NDAA; and

(3)   Institute a moratorium on the removal of any active-duty U.S. foreign-born service member or honorably discharged veteran and their family pursuant to the final determination of their naturalization application associated with their honorable service dating back to February 28, 1961.

“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is committed to correcting the injustice of deporting brave men and women who put on a uniform and risked their lives for the United States," said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01). "I am proud that CHC members traveled to Tijuana earlier this year to meet with deported veterans, and have introduced legislation that will not only prevent current service members from being deported, but also allow veterans to return to the country they served and gain access to their earned benefits. It is our honor to advocate for these service members who have sacrificed so much in service to our nation."

In addition to Reps. Castro and Lujan Grisham, Reps. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA-44), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Vincente Gonzalez (TX-15), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Norma Torres (CA-35), Luis Gutiérrez (IL-04), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Filemon Vela (TX-34), J. Luis Correa (CA-46), Darren Soto (FL-09), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP-At Large), Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Linda Sanchez (CA-38), and Pete Aguilar (CA-31) also signed the letter.

The full letter can be viewed here: LINK