July 02, 2021

Duckworth Applauds Biden Admin’s New Initiative to Support Noncitizen Servicemembers & Veterans


Senator recently introduced a comprehensive legislative package to help protect servicemembers and Veterans from deportation

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee who served 23 years in the Reserve Forces, issued the following statement after the Biden Administration announced a new initiative to support noncitizen servicemembers and Veterans:

“It is simply wrong that many brave men and women willing to wear our uniform were later deported by the same nation they sacrificed to defend as a result of unnecessary and complex barriers in the naturalization process,” said Duckworth, who just last week reintroduced several bills aimed at helping protect Veterans and servicemembers from deportation as well as guaranteeing their access to the comprehensive VA benefits they earned. “Today’s steps by the Biden Administration will help right some of these wrongs and finally take action to help these Veterans access the benefits they have earned through their service, but it is still critical Congress change the laws that allowed this to happen in the first place by passing my bills to make it easier for Servicemembers and Veterans to become citizens, enable them to live here with their families and ensure they can access the life-saving VA care they earned through their tremendous sacrifices.”

Last month, Duckworth also released a report that details the history of immigrants enlisting in the U.S. military, the complicated path to military naturalization, barriers deported Veterans face in accessing Veterans Affairs’ benefits, recommended policy solutions and much more. Duckworth also testified at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Hearing on deported Veterans last week.

Duckworth has been active in protecting Veterans from deportation and helping those who have been deported gain citizenship and access to important VA services. In January of this year, Duckworth asked President Biden to prohibit the deportation of Veterans and strengthen the naturalization process for Servicemembers. Last Congress, she introduced the Strengthening Citizenship Services for Veterans Act, legislation that would ensure deported Veterans who have successfully completed the preliminary naturalization process can attend their citizenship interview at a port of entry, embassy or consulate without navigating the complex process of advance parole.

In 2019, Duckworth traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, on Veterans Day to meet with a group of Veterans who have been deported to hear about their efforts to access the VA healthcare benefits they’ve earned.

Although the exact number is unknown, hundreds of non-citizen Veterans are estimated to have been deported from the United States in recent years and former President Trump’s 2017 executive order expanding the grounds for deportation could have also lead to an increase in the deportation of Veterans. While most deported Veterans were eligible for naturalization when they were in the military, the U.S. government has often failed to prioritize assisting non-citizen servicemembers with completing the naturalization process. Because of this lack of follow-through, some Veterans who thought they had become citizens found out later that they were vulnerable to deportation because their paperwork had never been processed.

Once a Veteran is deported, they are usually unable to access the full VA benefits they have earned and would receive if they were still living in the United States. Many have trouble accessing even basic medical care, even though Veterans struggle with higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and physical health problems like chronic pain than the general population. Many deported Veterans are also separated from their families and their children who live in the U.S., while those deported to Mexico or Central America are especially vulnerable to threats from gangs and drug cartels due to their military experience.