New Veterans' Bills Prohibit Deportation and Improve Health Care

Democratic Senators have reintroduced a package of veterans’ bills that would not only improve health care services, but prohibit deportation and provide permanent residency in the US. The three bills are known as the Veterans Visa and Protection Act, the Healthcare Opportunities for Patriots in Exile (HOPE) Act, and the Immigrant Veterans Eligibility Tracking System (I-VETS) Act, according to a press release from Senator Mazie Hirono’s (D-Hawaii) desk on April 4.

Other co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the press release states. In a statement, Hirono said immigrants who serve the United States in the Armed Forces deserve protection from deportation and access to health care. “When immigrants step up to serve our country, it is unacceptable to deny them the very same rights and opportunities they risk their lives defending. We must appropriately recognize these veterans, and that starts with protecting their access to care and their right to remain in their communities,” Hirono said in the release. “The Veterans Visa and Protection Act, the HOPE Act, and the I-VETS Act would help veterans seek legal permanent residency and citizenship. It would also ensure all veterans can access medical care for service-connected medical conditions.”

One of the bills will prevent veterans who are also non-violent offenders from deportation. The Veterans Visa and Protection Act of 2019 will also “establish a visa program through which deported veterans may enter the United States as legal permanent residents” and “enable legal permanent residents to become naturalized citizens through military service,” according to the press release. The bill would also grant benefits for those who served if they are not deported.

The HOPE Act would allow veterans who were deported and did not commit a violent crime to re-enter the US temporarily to receive medical care from a VA facility, the press release stated. The third bill, titled the Immigrant Veterans Eligibility Tracking System (I-VETS) Act of 2019, would identify active duty personnel and veterans who are applying for immigration benefits or have been placed in immigration enforcement proceedings. It would also require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “fast track” servicemembers and veterans applications for citizenship.

Servicemembers and veterans should be accepted by the nation instead of being deported, Senator Duckworth said in a statement. Duckworth referenced Army veteran Miguel Perez, who was deported to Mexico last year because of a drug trafficking conviction from 2008, CBS previously reported.

“Men and women willing to wear our uniform shouldn’t be deported by the same nation they risked their lives to defend,” Senator Duckworth said in the press release. “These pieces of legislation will help servicemembers become citizens and help veterans like Miguel who have been deported [to] return to this country, enabling them to live here with their families and ensuring they can access the life-saving VA care they earned through their tremendous sacrifices.”

Rejections of veteran requests for deportation protection have grown under the Trump administration, according to data obtained by The Military Times. In 2017, the administration approved 1,449 requests for deportation protection but rejected 250 veteran requests. During the first nine months of 2018, Trump denied 218 requests and approved 875, according to the publication.

“No one who serves our nation in uniform, volunteering to die for it, should be forced to leave it,” Senator Blumenthal said in the press release. “Providing a path to earned citizenship and basic health care mean keeping faith with veterans.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.