Protect Military Families from Deportation
(November 11, 2019) — The Trump administration’s continued attacks on immigrants mean that servicemembers, veterans, and their family members are at risk of deportation. Last June, the Department of Homeland Security repealed “Parole in Place,” a policy that prevented deportation of family members of active duty military members, veterans, and reservists. Previously, federal immigration officials allowed servicemembers and veterans the time to pursue paths to legal residency for both themselves and their family members without fear of disruption and separation.
Removing this protection is cruel and inhumane and it is a slap in the face to those who have borne the brunt of our often-disastrous military policies.
Fortunately, Senator Tammy Duckworth and a handful of her colleagues are fighting back. Last week, Senator Duckworth introduced a bill to ensure these families stay together. But, to make this happen we need the voices of people from every state urging their Senators to support this important bill.
ACTION: Sign now and tell your Senators to cosponsor S. 2797, The Military Family Parole in Place Act, so our servicemembers and veteran families are safe from deportation.
To Members of the US Senate:
Our active duty members and veterans require a commitment by the US government to support them and their families, including not separating them through deportation. Please honor their service and sacrifice by cosponsoring S. 2797, the Military Family Parole in Place Act, which protects family members of servicemembers, veterans, and reservists from deportation.
New Trump Policies Could End in Deportations for Some Active Duty Troops
(June 28, 2019) — The federal government is rolling back protections that have held off deportations for non-citizen service members, their families and veterans, according to a top immigration lawyer.
Memos are circulating among Homeland Security and Defense Department personnel, as well as lawyers who handle service member immigration issues, announcing the end of a handful of policies that have allowed thousands of people to stay in the US while they sort out their resident status.
“I wanted to confirm that this was all true, so I started calling a few people, and I got confirmation in various emails that this was all true,” Margaret Stock, an Alaska-based attorney, told Military Times in a Thursday phone interview.
Spokespeople for the White House, DHS and DoD declined to comment about the policies, which include deferred action and parole in place, temporary legal residency statuses granted to undocumented immigrants on a case-by-case basis.
Deferred action grants a renewable two-year legal residency, including the ability to work legally, as in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program that has made headlines in recent years.
Parole in place has been used specifically for service members’ families, granting renewable year-long legal residency and the ability to work legally.
Exceptions written into immigration policy have allowed both of those options for service members, their family members and troops, but the administration’s latest moves do away with them.
“It used to be, under the Bush administration and the Obama administration, that they would terminate removal proceedings for military members and their family members, and that’s changed under Trump,” Stock said, adding that service members and family members have been put into removal proceedings well before these memos were drafted.
Stock first got wind of the changes on Saturday, at an American Immigration Lawyers Association meeting. There are about four weeks until the new rules go into effect, she said, so those affected are scrambling to get their requests approved before late July.
The memos show that both deferred action and parole in place are being eliminated for service members, veterans and their families, “with the exception of the immediate relatives of United States citizens ― and those are people who don’t actually need deferred action, for the most part,” because they have another path to legal residency, Stock said.
That covers military veterans, current service members and family members ― including parents, spouses and children ― in both the active and reserve components, she said.
“And then they’re also going to eliminate parole in place for family members, veterans, reservists, National Guard and all active duty people,” she added.
The changes will also affect troops serving under the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program, which allows certain non-citizens to serve in the military and eventually apply for citizenship.
The policy was written, she said, after the case of a green card-holding sailor who testified before Congress: In her case, she had gone to on-base legal services to ask if she needed to renew her green card, and told by a judge advocate that it wasn’t necessary, because she was in the citizenship application process.
So the green card lapsed, and DHS opened removal proceedings, forcing her to take leave fly to California from Norfolk, Virginia, to attend hearings to clear it up. “We’re going to see a lot more of that kind of stuff happening now,” Stock said.
DoD has also since stopped expedited citizenship approvals for service members, she added, because “the solution was we used to have was to just naturalize the troops and we wouldn’t have to worry about them getting deported.” DoD has also forced discharges of MAVNI troops with foreign-born parents, Stock said.
“They’re immigrants in the military. They knew they had foreign parents when they enlisted them, but they now claim that’s some dangerous thing, to have foreign parents,” she said. It all adds up to huge headaches for service members and their commands, Stock said.
“The reason we came up with all these policies was to stop this kind of stuff, because it was creating havoc in the ranks,” she said. If the policy changes result in deportations, it will likely be years before their are carried out, Stock said.
“Deportations don’t happen immediately in America. They’re a lengthy process,” she said, involving multiple hearings in backlogged courts. “I don’t expect there will be very many instantaneous removals.”
But it’s likely that Congress will be the next recourse. It’s not the first time these issues have bubbled up, but immigration officials worked with Congress years ago to put these protections in place for military members and their families.
“And the agency basically came to Congress and said, ‘We’ll fix this,’ ” Stock said. “And they did. They fixed it. They came up with these administrative policies and everything, so Congress never had to pass any laws to fix things.”
Rather than policy, programs like deferred action and parole in place could become statutory laws. “The focus is now going to be on Congress to pass the laws, because the administration can’t be trusted to do things administratively,” she said.
Army Veteran Duckworth Introduces Senate bill to Protect Troops’ Families from Deportation
(November 6, 2019) — A group of Senate Democrats announced a proposed law Wednesday that would protect immediate family members of service members and veterans from being deported, under certain circumstances.
The Military Family Parole in Place Act would reverse a 2019 Trump administration policy that directed Homeland Security Department officials to deny special extensions of legal residency that had been afforded to troops’ families in the past.
“Not only is it an inhumane action by DHS, it’s also just stupid when it comes to issues of military readiness,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, told Military Times in a Wednesday phone interview.
Parole in place is a temporary legal residency designation that has been used specifically for undocumented immigrants whose family members are serving or have served. It delayed deportation proceedings on a year-long, renewable basis and allowed recipients to work.
While no specific numbers of those affected were immediately available, past data of requests for military deportation relief have numbered in more than 1,000 a year.
Earlier this year, a DHS memo announced the end of the program, putting troops, veterans and their families at risk of deportation.
Duckworth’s bill ― co-sponsored by Sens. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-New Mexico, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, Chris Coons, D-Delaware, Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, Tim Kaine D-Virginia, and Ron Wyden D-Oregon ― would reinstate parole in place for parents, children, spouses or widow(er)s of service members, as well as those of veterans who were not dishonorably discharged.
The law does not address deferred action, which service members and veterans themselves have had access to in the pass, and that DHS memos have indicated a motivation to tighten up on.
DHS would still be able to deny parole in place, according to a Wednesday release from Duckworth’s office, but they would have to run the decisions by the defense secretary or VA secretary first, then post a detailed justification for each denial online monthly.
“It means that the policy allows it to be affected by the whims of any administration,” Duckworth said of the current DHS posture, adding that in the case of this administration, the policy was only supported by one corner of the federal government.
Duckworth spoke to Pentagon officials, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, about the policy, she said, “and they were completely astonished that DHS was doing this … when you have two different departments within an administration who can’t agree on this policy, that actually affects military readiness.”
Though the bill is solely sponsored by Democrats now, Duckworth said she is courting Republican support. “When I brought up this question in committee, there were quite a few Republicans who were surprised,” she said.
Duckworth, a medically retired Army helicopter pilot, said she would spend her Veterans Day in Tijuana with an organization that supports deported veterans.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.
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