The Biden administration plans to track down veterans who have been deported as part of an effort to provide a pathway to citizenship along with access to Veterans Affairs benefits.
A late Friday announcement from the Department of Homeland Security said the move is part of a broader plan to “avoid future unjust removals” of noncitizen military service members, many of whom are eligible to naturalize due to their military service.
“We are committed to bringing back military service members, veterans, and their immediate family members who were unjustly removed and ensuring they receive the benefits to which they may be entitled,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasHaiti prime minister warns inequality will cause migration to continue O'Rourke slams White House's treatment of Haitian migrants: 'Didn't have to happen' Sunday shows preview: Pelosi announces date for infrastructure vote; administration defends immigration policies MORE said in a release.
The effort directs a trio of DHS agencies — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — to “review the cases of individuals whose removals failed to live up to our highest values.”
The agencies are also tasked with ensuring that all eligible current and former noncitizen service members and their immediate family are able to remain in or return to the United States.
A 2019 Government Accountability Office report found more than 44,000 noncitizens served in the military between 2013 and 2018. While the government can initiate removal proceedings for veterans that were convicted of a crime, the report found ICE didn’t consistently adhere to its policies for dealing with veterans or track how many veterans are ultimately deported.
The announcement comes on the heels of another effort to encourage some 9 million longtime residents to apply for U.S. citizenship, including an outreach program within the military.