AB 386 creates legal aid fund for veterans seeking to return to United States
East County News Service
March 14, 2017 (San Diego) — When immigrants signed up to serve in America’s armed forced, they were promised that they would be given expedited citizenship. But now President Trump has begun deporting these veterans. Now, California’s Assembly Judiciary has approved a bill to establish a legal aid fund to help deported veterans.
The measure, AB 386 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat, passed by an 8 to 1 vote and now goes to the Appropriations Committee.
Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher says, “Immigrants who serve and fight for our country earn the right to become citizens. That’s common sense, it’s a powerful way to recruit bright and talented young men and women, and it’s federal law. But instead of keeping our promises, we’ve kicked these veterans out of the country they fought for.” She adds, “They’ve earned the right to return to this country as Americans, and make restitution for their mistakes as Americans.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimates that more than 250 veterans have been deported to 34 countries, although Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not keep track of those figures. An estimated 70,000 noncitizens enlisted in the U.S. military from 1999 to 2008, according to the Center for Naval Analyses, a research and development center for the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps.
A recent report by the ACLU of California titled “Discharged, Then Discarded” highlighted the federal government’s policy of deporting immigrant veterans for minor, misdemeanor offenses, such as possession of marijuana. In many cases, the veterans who are deported are sent to countries with which they do not speak the language or have any real connection.
Special provisions of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act authorize U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to expedite the application and naturalization process for current members of the U.S. Armed Forces and recently discharged service members.
But Gonzalez notes these provisions are being flouted or ignored when it comes to these veterans, many of whom came to the United States as children, grew up here, and consider themselves patriotic Americans.