On July 26, 2017, Representatives Don Young (R-Alaska), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), and Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) introduced the bipartisan Repatriate Our Patriots Act (H.R. 3427). The bill would protect immigrant veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who were honorably discharged and have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses from deportation and address some long-standing barriers to their naturalization. About 94,000 immigrant veterans of the U.S. armed forces are currently not naturalized, leaving them susceptible to deportation despite their service in the military.
What are the Bill’s Main Provisions?
- Creates a Special Veteran Designation for Certain Immigrant Veterans. The bill establishes a “special veteran” designation for all immigrant veterans who were discharged honorably from the military and have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses, such as voluntary manslaughter and murder.
- Protects Special Veterans from Deportation. The bill establishes that a special veteran cannot be deported from the U.S.
- Assists Special Veterans to Obtain U.S. Citizenship. The bill directs the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to process naturalization applications for special veterans within 90 days and allows special veterans to file their naturalization applications from abroad and permits them and their spouses and children to take the oath of allegiance at U.S. embassies, consulates, and military installations abroad.
- Cancels Removal Proceedings for Special Veterans and Allows Return to Lawful Permanent Resident Status. The bill requires the DHS Secretary to cancel the removal of a special veteran undergoing removal proceedings on the date of the bill’s enactment, directs the Attorney General to rescind any outstanding orders of removal for special veterans or findings that a special veteran is subject to removal or inadmissible, and allows special veterans residing in the U.S. who lost their lawful permanent resident (LPR) status to regain that status.
- Establishes a Program for Deported Veterans to Return to the U.S. The bill directs the DHS Secretary to create a program within 180 days of the bill’s enactment to permit special veteran who were deported to re-enter the U.S. as LPRs.
- Provides Access to Military Benefits. The bill provides special veterans with access to all military benefits that they were eligible for prior to being ordered removed or deported.
- Develops Safeguards to Identify Special Veterans. The bill directs the DHS Secretary to identify immigration cases involving special veterans by inquiring in every deportation proceeding case whether the individual is a special veteran and keeping records of special veterans who have been detained under immigration law, or had removal proceedings and/or have been removed before the bill’s enactment.