July 19, 2021

Editorial: Yes, block deportations of immigrants serving in the U.S. military

Congress should move to pass Duckworth bill blocking deportations involving military personnel

Source: Daily Herald


U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth believes most Americans assume that when an undocumented immigrant serves honorably in the United States military, it provides an expedited path to citizenship for them and their families.

Count us among those Americans.

But where that was once true, apparently it no longer can be guaranteed. According to Duckworth in her June report "Immigrant Veterans: Deported by the Same Nation They Sacrificed to Defend," a path to citizenship exists but the Defense Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have not been processing the paperwork.

"We have cases where veterans submitted paperwork with their unit thinking everything was done, and it was not," Duckworth, a Democrat from Hoffman Estates, told The New York Times. "And they only find out about it when they're being handed over to ICE."

During the Trump Administration, she says, immigrant stations at military bases started getting shut down -- closing off one avenue for active-duty military to process their citizenship. The former administration also stopped honoring a promise made by Defense and Homeland Security not to deport family members of servicemen and women who were sent overseas.

Some arguments are nuanced. This one is straightforward. Anyone who signs up to risk his or her life defending the United States deserves the full support of our government. And while President Joe Biden has pledged to work to get veterans returned to the U.S. who have been deported, the issue, says Duckworth, is to put laws into place that will prevent this from happening again.

Getting that done deserves a bipartisan approach in Congress. This is not a "Democratic" issue -- after all, it was President George W. Bush who signed an executive order allowing undocumented servicemen and women to push their citizenship through.

Duckworth, one of the first Army women to fly combat and who lost her legs in the Iraq War, says she served directly alongside undocumented military personnel who were key people in the unit. Under Bush's executive order, she and others helped push through their citizenship.

"I'd flown missions with them. I'd slept in the dirt with them," she told the Times. "I'm thinking, 'What would I do without these guys?' So we hustled and we got them their citizenship."

Duckworth's bill would prohibit the deportation of veterans who are nonviolent offenders and create a visa program where deported veterans may enter the U.S. as legal permanent residents, so they can become naturalized citizens. The bill also extends military and veterans benefits to those who are eligible for them.

Frankly, we're appalled this isn't already happening. Let's get it done.

By:  The Daily Herald Editorial Board