Immigrants show their commitment to the United States in a multitude of ways. In fact, their dedication to the US began with their decision to leave their home countries and put down roots in America. And many immigrants take their devotion to this great land a step further by becoming members of our Armed forces.
Each year, around 8,000 immigrants join the US military, bringing a wealth of racial, ethnic, linguistic and cultural insights to their posts. And given the increasingly global agenda of our Armed Forces, these diverse attributes are more valuable than ever. Unfortunately, though, many of our political leaders seem to not hold immigrants’ service in high regard, as a whopping 30,000 of these honorable men and women have been deported since 1996 for crimes classified as “aggravated felonies” under immigration law. But Margaret Stock, an attorney and retired lieutenant colonel, explains that the charges immigrant veterans are deported under are neither, “aggravated” nor “felonious,” and that the law prevents fair rulings in many of these cases.
“An immigration judge is not permitted to consider the individual circumstances of anyone who has an ‘aggravated felony’ conviction,” Stock said. “It doesn’t matter how old, minor or non-violent the offense, or if the individual has long since been rehabilitated. Such a person’s fate is sealed: He or she must be detained and deported.”
While thousands of veterans have been unfairly deported, there are a few key pieces of legislation in the works that would prevent future deportations. Recently, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) proposed a bill known as the ENLIST Act, which would allow young, undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children to apply for citizenship after military service. The bill would be an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). And Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) proposed an amendment that would allow undocumented immigrants to attend military service academies.
The military benefits greatly from the service of immigrants who enlist. And now, it’s time for immigrants to benefit from their honorable service.