San Diego, CA (June 3, 2017)— On Saturday, June 3, seven members of Congress visited the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana, Mexico to meet with veterans who have been deported from the United States. During the visit, Reps. Juan Vargas (CA-51), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), Lou Correa (CA-46), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), and Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44) toured the facility and heard the veterans’ personal stories.
“Deported veterans are patriots without a country,” said Rep. Vargas. “They called the U.S. home and swore to serve and defend our nation and our freedom, but our immigration system and our government have failed them.”
Rep. Vargas introduced a Deported Veterans Bill Package on Friday, May 26. This bill package will prevent veterans and service members from being deported and help veterans that have been deported get access to the medical service they deserve. The Immigrant Veterans Eligibility Tracking System (I-VETS) Act of 2017, Healthcare Opportunities for Patriots in Exile (HOPE) Act of 2017, and Naturalization at Training Sites (NATS) Act of 2017 are part of this legislative package.
“These veterans fought for our country, now we must fight for them,” said Rep. Vargas. “The bills I introduced will help veterans who have been deported access medical care and prevent veterans and service members from being deported by tracking their immigration statuses and ensuring that they’re well informed on the naturalization process. We must support, not deport, our service members.”
As of January 2017, there were 10,644 noncitizens currently serving in the U.S. military and an additional 11,524 noncitizens under reserve status. The greatest numbers of lawful permanent resident (LPR) service members come from the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica, South Korea, and the Dominican Republic. Overall, there are about 608,000 living foreign-born veterans of the U.S. armed forces from nations around the world.
Many LPR service members are told by recruiters that they can quickly gain citizenship for themselves and their family after serving honorably. However, they are not advised that citizenship is not granted automatically and that they must actively seek citizenship through the standard (although expedited) application process. A 2016 report by the ACLU estimates that the United States has deported more than 230 veterans.
Vargas represents California’s 51st Congressional District which includes the southern portion of San Diego County, all of Imperial County and California’s entire U.S./Mexico border. Vargas was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 and is currently serving his third term in Congress. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee.