March 10, 2021

Duckworth Discusses Protecting Veterans from Deportation at USC Gould School of Law Symposium


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today participated in a symposium on Veterans deportation hosted by the University of Southern California’s (USC) Gould School of Law. In the virtual Q&A, Duckworth discussed the challenges deported Veterans face in attaining citizenship and VA benefits, her visit to the Deported Veterans Support House on Veterans Day in 2019 and her successful efforts in helping previously-deported Veterans—Miguel Perez and Roman Sabal—attain citizenship and return home.

Key quotes:

  • On why it is important to look beyond the character of discharge when looking at the cases of deported Veterans: “We did not take care of our troops very well in the early years of the war and there are many troops who have other than honorable discharges, general discharges and dishonorable discharges due to behavior that came out as a result of undiagnosed brain injury or PTSD. And now we are moving to go back and upgrade those discharges into honorable discharges. And that is what we need to for people like Miguel, because that difference between an honorable and other than honorable discharge affected his ability to stay in the United States.”
  • On how Americans can help make change on this issue: “Reaching out to your legislators is important, especially if they are Republicans, and making a convincing argument about why this needs to be changed… You can also urge your Governors to take action. In Miguel’s case, we were able to get Governor J.B. Pritzker to pardon him… So you can definitely work on getting pardons for Veterans who broke state statutes as well.”

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.

Duckworth also introduced legislation to prohibit the deportation of Veterans who are not violent offenders, give legal permanent residents a path to citizenship through military service and strengthen VA healthcare services for Veterans. 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.