Homeland Security announced Friday that it will launch a campaign to invite immigrants who’d served in the U.S. armed forces, but who ran afoul of the law and were deported, to come back into the country.
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the program will apply to those ousted “unjustly.”
The move has long been a goal of immigrant-rights activists, and could serve as a testing ground for a broader attempt to bring back a larger pool of illegal immigrants deported during times when the government more strictly enforced immigration laws.
“The Department of Homeland Security recognizes the profound commitment and sacrifice that service members and their families have made to the United States of America,” Mr. Mayorkas said.
He and Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis R. McDonough also announced plans to identify and get taxpayer-funded assistance to deported veterans in their current countries. That includes COVID vaccines, the secretaries said.
And Homeland Security said it will try to streamline the ability of immigrant veterans and their families to get U.S. citizenship.
It’s not clear who would qualify for an invitation to return to the U.S. after deportation.
In announcing the policy, Homeland Security said it would be “cases of individuals whose removals failed to live up to our highest values.”
One major question will be whether the policy covers only the Trump years or extends back further. That would mean including veterans deported during the Obama administration — when President Biden was the No. 2 man in the administration, and Mr. Mayorkas was the No. 2 man at Homeland Security, overseeing some of those deportations.
Estimates of deported veterans range from the hundreds to thousands.
Most were deported because of criminal convictions.
To serve in the U.S. military, an immigrant is supposed to be in the country legally. The law already provides a speedy path to citizenship for immigrants who do serve, but some immigrants fail to take advantage of it.
Had they earned citizenship it’s likely most would have been protected from removal in the first place.
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