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Pingree, House Pass Bill to Protect Veterans from Deportation

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and the U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation to prevent the deportation of veterans. The Veteran Service Recognition Act (H.R. 7946) makes the naturalization process easier for active duty servicemembers, establishes a review process for non-citizen veterans, servicemembers, and their families, and creates an opportunity for deported veterans to obtain legal permanent resident status. 

“Immigrant servicemembers and veterans who put their life on the line fighting for our country deserve a fair pathway to citizenship and access to the Veterans Affairs benefits they earned,” Pingree said. “The Veteran Service Recognition Act is a step towards fixing our broken immigration system and gives us the opportunity to fight for immigrant veterans as they fought for us.”

The Veteran Service Recognition Act will:

  • Direct the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to implement a program that allows non-citizen servicemembers to file for naturalization during basic training, or as early as otherwise possible.
  • Direct the Department of Homeland Security to establish a Military Family Immigration Advisory Committee. This committee will review the cases of non-citizen veterans and active duty servicemembers in removal proceedings and will provide recommendations on whether prosecutorial discretion is warranted, or whether the removal proceedings should continue.
  • Provide an opportunity for non-citizen veterans who have been removed or ordered removed and who have not been convicted of serious crimes to apply for and obtain legal permanent resident status if it is in the public interest. 

Immigrants have served in the U.S. Armed Forces in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War. Today, there are approximately 45,000 immigrants actively serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Unfortunately, in many instances, non-citizen veterans have been removed before they can become naturalized as U.S. citizens. Many times, such removals are due to a conviction for a crime stemming from trauma that occurred during the veteran’s service in the U.S. Armed Forces. This means that a veteran who risked their life for our country and suffered long-lasting mental health problems as a result may be deported, separating them from their family and preventing them from accessing the benefits they are eligible for and have rightfully earned.

Pingree serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. 




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