[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Despite enlisting in our military and serving our country under the promise of gaining citizenship, many Veterans that were honorably discharged have faced deportation and even been prevented from attending their own naturalization hearings. To help address this injustice, combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today reintroduced her Strengthening Citizenship Services for Veterans Act to help ensure deported Veterans who have successfully completed the preliminary naturalization process can attend their citizenship interview at a port of entry, embassy or consulate without navigating the complex process of parole. This legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Companion legislation will soon be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA-52).

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“Far too many Veterans have been cruelly deported by the same nation they sacrificed to defend and, as a result, are prevented from attending the same naturalization interviews that could help them gain citizenship because of ambiguous federal policies that bar them from re-entering the country,” Senator Duckworth said. “This common-sense legislation would help ensure these Veterans who served our nation honorably receive a fair chance at gaining citizenship without unnecessary delays that prevent them from reuniting with their families.”

“Many of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our nation and our freedoms are immigrants. It’s disgraceful that too many of these veterans are unable to return to their families and the country they served,” said Representative Vargas. “It’s past time for us to right this wrong. Deported veterans deserve to come home.”

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When Donald Trump was President, his Administration removed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) teams at military training installations, making it harder for military members seeking to become naturalized citizens as a result of their service. The Trump Administration also shuttered many of its international immigration offices, dramatically limiting the ability of servicemembers to naturalize while serving abroad. In November 2021, the Biden Administration sought to remedy this with a new policy allowing deported Veterans to conduct their citizenship interviews at landed ports of entries. The Strengthening Citizenship Services for VeteransAct would codify this policy and expand it to allow deported Veterans to also conduct these interviews at consulates and embassies.

Duckworth and Vargas initially introduced this legislation in February of 2020 in the wake of deported U.S. Marine Veteran Roman Sabal—who served for six years and received an honorable discharge after attaining the rank of sergeant—being denied reentry into the U.S. to attend his own naturalization hearing. Only after a pro-bono legal team helped him sue the Federal Government was he paroled into the U.S. and allowed to complete his naturalization process. While Sabal eventually gained his citizenship in October of 2020, the citizenship interview process remains challenging for deported Veterans.

The Strengthening Citizenship Services for Veterans Act would:

  • Direct USCIS to conduct biometric collections, naturalization examinations and oath ceremonies at a port of entry, embassy or consulate for Veterans
  • Require the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue guidance for biometric collections, naturalization examinations and oath ceremonies for Veterans
  • Direct the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State to jointly report to Congress an analysis of the implementation of this policy, the effectiveness of the guidance issued and update the guidance if any shortcomings are identified

Duckworth re-introduced three bills last year to protect and support Veterans and servicemembers. Her proposals—the Veterans Visa and Protection Act, HOPE Act and I-VETS Act—would prohibit the deportation of Veterans who are not violent offenders, provide legal permanent residents with a path to citizenship through military service and strengthen U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care services for Veterans.

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