Padilla Announces Bill to Stop Deportation of Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety,announced the Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act to implement comprehensive reforms across agencies to help prevent the deportation of noncitizen veterans, improve the pathway to citizenship for eligible military service members and their families, and grant deported veterans an opportunity to return home to the United States. 

The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Similar legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Raúl Grijalva (D-A.Z.), and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.).

“The United States has an obligation to support veterans and their families, regardless of immigration status,” Senator Padilla said. “Since the founding of our nation, citizens and non-citizens have served together in the United States military, fighting side by side in defense of our nation and our values. We cannot disregard their service and sacrifice. The Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act will help keep families to together and help keep veterans where they belong — in the country they served and fought for.”

“Every day, immigrant veterans are falling through the cracks of our broken immigration system and forced into deportation,” Rep. Mark Takano 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.”

The Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act:

  • Establishes the Military Family Immigration Advisory Committee to look at a totality of circumstances and make recommendations on whether noncitizen veterans or their family facing deportation should be granted a stay of removal, deferred action, parole, or be removed from the country.
  • Directs 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.
  • Improves the pathway to citizenship for military service members, and their spouses and children through a joint program between the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Requires DHS to establish a program and application for veterans and their families who were removed from the United States to be admitted back into the country as lawful permanent residents and directs their removal cases to be reopened.
  • Directs the DHS Secretary to establish an annual training program for DHS personnel on handling cases involving noncitizen veterans.

In June, Padilla chaired a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing that examined immigration policies for our military service members and veterans – including policies on deported veterans. One of the witnesses was Howard Bailey, a United States Navy veteran who was deported to Jamaica in 2012 for a conviction that has since been pardoned. Following the hearing, Padilla urged Secretary Mayorkas to reopen Howard Bailey’s immigration proceedings and grant him humanitarian parole, which was swiftly granted and Bailey returned home to the United States in August.