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CHC Congressional Hispanic Caucus Requests Urgent Meeting on Deported Veterans with VA Secretary

Jun 20, 2017
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a trip to meet with deported veterans in Tijuana, Mexico, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and CHC Leadership sent a letter to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin to request an urgent meeting.
 
As the Members stated in the letter, “We would like to discuss ways that the federal government and, specifically, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department can provide deported veterans living outside of the U.S. with the support, resources and services they have earned by serving our nation.” They added that, “In order to prevent future veteran deportations, it is critical that we also discuss steps the VA can presently take to improve information and outreach to veterans regarding citizenship eligibility and to facilitate the citizenship application process for active duty and recently separated LPR service members.”
 
Many legal permanent resident (LPR) service members are told by recruiters that they can quickly gain citizenship for themselves and their family after serving honorably. However, they are not advised that citizenship is not granted automatically and that they must actively seek citizenship through the standard (although expedited) application process.
 
The letter was signed by: CHC Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, CHC First Vice Chair Joaquin Castro, CHC Second Vice Chair Ruben Gallego, CHC Whip Pete Aguilar, and CHC Freshman Representative Adriano Espaillat.
 
COPY OF LETTER
 
June 19, 2017
 
David J. Shulkin
Secretary
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW Washington DC 20420
 
Dear Secretary Shulkin:
 
We write to request an urgent meeting with you to discuss how we can immediately stop the federal government from deporting United States veterans who were lawful permanent residents (LPR) at the time of their deportation. We would also like to discuss ways that the federal government and, specifically, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department can provide deported veterans living outside of the U.S. with the support, resources and services they have earned by serving our nation. 
 
We are aware of deported veterans that have served as recently as the war in Afghanistan, to veterans that served in the Iraq and Vietnam wars.  However, because the federal government does not keep track of the number of veterans that have been deported, we do not have an accurate count of all impacted veterans and families. Veteran and immigration advocates have confirmed more than 3,000 veteran deportation cases. However, advocacy groups estimate that more than 30,000 veterans may have been deported in the last several decades.
 
On June 3, 2017, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members traveled to Tijuana, Mexico to meet with several of these deported veterans. During this meeting, the veterans shared many of the challenges they faced when they were initially deported and separated from their families. One prominent issue they continue to face is access to health care. Though many of these former service members qualify for VA health benefits, they are currently unable to obtain these vital, lifesaving services they need to address injuries and disabilities sustained while serving our country.
 
Representative Juan Vargas, a CHC Member, was recently successful in helping a deported veteran get his VA health claim granted. The CHC is interested in replicating this success story and working with the VA to identify administrative fixes that increase available resources for these service members and facilitate access to the healthcare services many of these deported veterans urgently need. As of January 2017, there were 10,644 noncitizens currently serving in the U.S. military and an additional 11,524 noncitizens under reserve status. In order to prevent future veteran deportations, it is critical that we also discuss steps the VA can presently take to improve information and outreach to veterans regarding citizenship eligibility and to facilitate the citizenship application process for active duty and recently separated LPR service members.
 
We look forward to your prompt response to this urgent meeting request.  Please contact CHC Executive Director Alma Acosta at alma.acosta@mail.house.gov to confirm your availability.
 
Sincerely,
 
CHC Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham
CHC First Vice Chair Joaquin Castro
CHC Second Vice Chair Ruben Gallego
CHC Whip Pete Aguilar
CHC Freshman Representative Adriano Espaillat
# # #
 
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.