Veasey Introduces Legislation to Ensure Citizenship for Immigrant Service Members
Washington, D.C. - This week, Congressman Marc Veasey, TX-33, member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced legislation to study deported veterans and to establish an Office of Naturalization within the Department of Defense to ensure that legal permanent residents who enlist and serve in the U.S. armed forces are explicitly guided through the citizenship process before their honorable discharge.
Currently, legal permanent residents are permitted to enlist in the U.S. military and are eligible for expedited citizenship. Despite actions taken by the Department of Defense to facilitate U.S. citizenship for service members through the creation of their Naturalization at Basic Training initiative, enlisted members still fall through the cracks and transition into civilian life without realizing they ever completed the naturalization process. Often, service members confuse the oath of enlistment with an oath of citizenship and do not realize they are not U.S. citizens until they face life-changing circumstances like deportation.
The federal government does not currently track deported veterans. H.R. 3103, the Study Our Deported Vets Act, would reverse this oversight and require the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense to conduct a study on the population of deported veterans from 1990 to the present day. The study would not only shed light on how many veterans have been removed from the United States but also explicitly explore what circumstances led to their deportation with the hope of providing additional resources to prevent future removals.
H.R. 3102, the Citizenship for Service Members Act, would prevent such an occurrence from happening in the first place by establishing an Office of Naturalization in the Department of Defense that would be tasked with coordinating military installation point of contacts to ensure that every immigrant service member is discharged as an American citizen. The legislation also expands USCIS’ successful Naturalization at Basic Training initiative from six sites to all bases to ensure that the opportunity to naturalize is as accessible as possible for new recruits.
“It is a shame that anyone who has faithfully served in our armed forces would face deportation and be expelled from the country they swore to protect,” Congressman Veasey said. “My bills aim to end this injustice by first understanding what led to a veteran’s deportation and secondly working to create a program that will guarantee non-citizen service members are able to naturalize before they are discharged.”