Today, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva introduced a bill to the House of Representatives that would help to humanize United States immigration policies. The bill would give immigrants who served in the US military, but who were subsequently deported due to a criminal conviction, a chance to return to the US.
The Department of Homeland Security Secretary would be able to consider that veteran’s military service and family ties in determining whether the US should grant a visa.
That ability to be united with – or even visit – their family in the US is, for the most part, unavailable to deported veterans. In 2007, we recounted the story of Joe Desiré, a lawful permanent resident of the US for 40 years and Vietnam veteran who faced deportation to Haiti due to drug convictions. He’d been clean for 10 years when he was interviewed.
In our 2014 report on the harsh immigration consequences of drug convictions, we shared the story of Howard Bailey, a Persian Gulf War veteran who was deported to Jamaica from the US for a 10-year-old marijuana conviction, separating him from his US citizen wife and two US citizen children.
Immigration enforcement in the US is an exercise in dysfunction. Earlier this month, the Senate considered, and ultimately rejected, two bills that would have exacerbated that dysfunction. One bill would have increased mandatory penalties for immigrants re-entering the US without permission – even though many immigrants re-enter simply to reunite with family. The other bill sought to coerce local police into entangling themselves with federal immigration authorities, which would have driven an ever deeper wedge between immigrants and local police.
It’s time for US immigration policy to become more reasonable. Harsh laws passed in the 1990s prohibit immigration judges from considering military service or family unity when deciding whether a lawful permanent resident should be able to stay in the US; judges’ hands are tied. They shouldn’t be. Deported veterans should get a chance to make their case to come home.