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Congressman Vicente Gonzalez

Representing the 15th District of Texas

Congressmen Gonzalez, Young, and O’Rourke Introduce the Repatriate Our Patriots Act in House of Representatives

July 26, 2017
Press Release
Bipartisan bill would bring deported veterans back to the United States

WASHINGTON—Today, Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Don Young (AK-At Large), and Beto O’Rourke (TX-16) introduced the Repatriate Our Patriots Act, a critical piece of bipartisan legislation that brings home deported veterans and expedites their citizenship application process.  

“These veterans served our nation honorably,” Congressman Gonzalez said. “This legislation is our chance to bring back our deported veterans and make sure that the federal government takes better care of all those who put their lives on the line for our freedom. I thank my colleagues Don Young and Beto O’Rourke and I look forward to working with them to right this wrong and repatriate our patriots.” 

The bill 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.

Many of these honorably discharged veterans are highly decorated and all had clean records prior to serving. At the same time, many suffer from PTSD and other combat injuries incurred as a result of their service to the nation.

“If you serve and defend this nation with honor, you should have the ability to become a citizen. Frankly, that’s how it’s always been,” Congressman Young said. “It’s a shame that these service members, who proudly defended this nation in the time of war, were put through the deportation process. My hope is that this legislation will restore their path to citizenship and allow them to return to the nation they were willing to fight and die for.”

The legislation would have the Attorney General cancel or rescind a removal order that effects any eligible veteran, and subsequently change his or her status to legal permanent resident.

It would also require the Secretary of Homeland Security to 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. Finally, the bill would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify and maintain records of immigration cases involving qualifying veterans.

“This legislation is an important step toward treating every veteran with the respect they have earned through their service and sacrifice,” Congressman O’Rourke said.

President Trump has previously been quoted saying that he would consider repatriating deported veterans. Congressman Gonzalez recently met with the president to discuss his legislation that would bring deported veterans back to the U.S.

  Background:

Congressman Gonzalez has been in regular contact with deported veterans from all over the world. Some of these countries include Germany, Guyana, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, and Turkey, among many other countries.

Additionally, Congressman Gonzalez and several other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus traveled to the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana, Mexico on Saturday, June 3, 2017 to meet with U.S. military veterans who were deported. The group spoke with deported veterans and listened to their personal hardships.

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. Of those serving, the greatest numbers of lawful permanent resident (LPR) service members come from the Philippines, Mexico, and Jamaica.

Timeline:

 

  • March 2017 – Began working with the Office of Legislative Counsel to draft Repatriate Our Patriots Act

 

  • March 2017 – Sent letter to President Donald Trump asking him to issue an Executive Order to bring back deported veterans who were honorably discharged.

 

  • April 2017 – Alerted Blue Dog Coalition and White House Office of Legislative Affairs of deported veterans issue and efforts to address it

 

  • April 2017 – Met with senior staff in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs to discuss and request support for Repatriate Our Patriots Act and a potential Executive Order to bring back deported veterans

 

  • April 2017 to Present – Galvanize bipartisan support for Repatriate Our Patriots Act

 

  • June 2017 – Visit Deported Veterans Bunker in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus

 

  • June 2017 – Met with President Trump to discuss and request support for efforts to bring back deported veterans