Congressman Gonzalez Calls on Attorney General, DHS, and VA to Support the Repatriate Our Patriots Act
WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) sent a letter urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, and Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs David Shulkin, to support the Repatriate Our Patriots Act. Two weeks ago, Congressman Gonzalez introduced the bipartisan legislation that would bring home deported veterans and expedite their citizenship application process.
“The Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Veterans Affairs all have a role to play in bringing home our heroes,” Congressman Gonzalez said. “I call on Attorney General Sessions, Acting Secretary Duke, and Secretary Shulkin to work with me to right this wrong and ensure these veterans receive the benefits they rightly deserve.”
Similar letters were also sent to the chairmen and ranking members of the House Committees on Veteran Affairs, House Judiciary Committee, and House Armed Services Committee.
Read the full letter below to Attorney General Sessions or see the official letter attached:
August 8, 2017
The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Sessions:
Two weeks ago, I introduced H.R. 3429, The Repatriate Our Patriots Act, this legislation would enable honorably discharged veterans who have been deported for minor crimes to return to the United States. I write to request your support for this bipartisan bill whose original co-sponsors include Congressmen Don Young of Alaska and Beto O’Rourke of Texas.
The United States is home to 21,369,602 veterans and I represent close to 40,000 of them. Deporting our veterans, many of whom are highly decorated and fought to save American lives, is a shameful and avoidable act. These veterans fought for our country and many suffer PTSD caused by their service. Deported veterans from all over the world have reached out to me after I became interested in the issue earlier this year. Separating them from their families or the resources to care for themselves after they return from serving their country is an egregious error we must correct.
A great number of those Lawful Permanent Residents currently serving in our Armed Forces are from various countries around the world. According to Hector Barajas-Varela, Director of the Deported Veterans Support House located in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, these veterans have been deported to 36 countries all over the world. One of the impediments to solving this problem is that the federal government has not kept an official record of how many of these veterans fit these criteria. There also is not a program or protocol in place that would allow them to return to the United States: the only country they call home.
H.R. 3429 would allow deported veterans who were honorably discharged or released to go through the naturalization process abroad. This excludes those who have been convicted of crimes such as voluntary manslaughter, murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, child abuse, and/or terrorism. Under this legislation, the Attorney General would cancel or rescind a removal order that effects any eligible veteran, and subsequently return his or her status to lawful permanent resident.
The Secretary of Homeland Security would also create a program and application procedure to allow veterans, who are eligible and were removed prior to the bill’s enactment, to return to the U.S. as a lawfully admitted permanent resident. Veterans who meet the bill’s requirements would also regain access to all military and veteran’s benefits they were previously entitled to. Finally, the bill would require the Homeland Security to identify and maintain records of immigration cases involving qualified veterans. Ultimately, I would like to protect these honorably discharged veterans, many of whom are highly decorated.
I hope to pass this legislation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and ultimately have President Donald Trump sign it into law. A little over one month ago, I had dinner with President Trump who indicated that he would support my legislation.
I call on you to join my efforts to repatriate our patriots and prevent this from happening in the future. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my staff member Louise Bentsen at (202) 225-2531 or Louise.Bentsen@mail.house.gov.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to working with you to pass H.R. 3429 and bring our heroes home.
Member of Congress