WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that would make it easier for illegal immigrant veterans and their families to stay in the country – a measure Republicans derided as another step by the Biden administration to open the borders.
The Veterans Service Recognition Act, passed by a vote of 219-208, would require the Department of Homeland Security to establish protocols for identifying noncitizen veterans, require immigration judges to review their service records during deportation proceedings, and require veterans to have their time in the U.S. completed. demands that they be allowed to stay until to conclude.
Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) accused Democrats of using the title of “flower” to “hide the true meaning of the dots,” claiming they provide “an avenue for criminals to stay in the country.”
“This leads the public to believe that we are considering a bill that would recognize the service of our veterans,” Fischbach said. “But if you look closely again, it’s clear that this is another push for open borders.”
The law calls for a nine-person task force from DHS to “make recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security regarding the exercise of discretion in any case” involving deportation proceedings for active-duty U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their family members. requires the formation of an advisory committee.
In addition, it orders the Departments of Defense, State, and Homeland Security to conduct a study to determine the number of noncitizen veterans deported since 1990.
Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) said the bill offers “necessary reforms that will improve our immigration system,” help close backlogs and “provide for those who not only play by the rules, but who have sacrificed in the service of our nation . may be a citizen”.
The bill would also allow the DHS secretary to overturn previous deportation orders for non-citizen veterans who have been convicted of a felony or drunk driving within the past 25 years, according to the bill. if not, offer them lawful permanent resident status. .
But Fischbach said it should include more criminal convictions as disqualifications, criticizing Democrats for overturning proposed GOP amendments in previous committee meetings that he said would have “criminalized trafficking, trafficking and prohibits those convicted of crimes such as firearms. [and] human trafficking.”
“Several amendments have been proposed in the Judiciary Committee to ensure that dangerous criminals do not change their immigration status,” Frischbach said. “Why are my colleagues so eager to see criminals on the street?”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), an Army veteran, said the bill would prevent those discharged for bad conduct from receiving civilian benefits.
“This bill will allow felons — individuals who have been released from bad behavior — to maintain opportunities that have never been available in the United States,” Issa said. “If you commit a crime, you should not be an American. You have not served honorably.’
The bill would also change citizenship through the military service program, allowing immigrant troops to apply for citizenship at any time after their first day of military service. Current law requires noncitizen troops to wait a year before applying for citizenship.
The move could help the Pentagon build its force amid declining recruitment rates, with the bill providing training for noncitizens on the steps they must take to apply for citizenship after enlisting, and military attorneys. must be involved with US Citizenship and Immigration Services in citizenship proceedings. .
According to DHS, USCIS has naturalized more than 158,000 troops over the past two decades, including 10,600 in fiscal year 2022 alone.
Fischbach said the bill is “another example of how not serious my colleagues are. [Democratic] many are about solving the immigration crisis at the southern border.
“In two short years, the American people have watched the situation on the southern border deteriorate from a crisis to nothing more,” Fischbach said. “I would have hoped that my colleagues would take this situation a little more seriously.”
But McGovern said the bill should have bipartisan support because it supports the military and is favored by veterans groups.
“The Veterans Service Recognition Act is actually supported by the American Legion, one of our leading veterans organizations in this country, but I don’t think that’s enough for some of my Republican colleagues,” McGovern said.
Fischbach said the law was “another example of Democrats using a sympathetic public to push open borders,” adding that “they should be ashamed.”
“As written, DHS does not have to deport almost anyone [who is a veteran or veteran’s spouse or child]leave it up to the DHS secretary to exercise discretion,” Fischbach said. “In almost all cases, [DHS] Secretary [Alejandro] Mallorca has done nothing to alleviate the immigration crisis in this country. Do we really want to give such a person more responsibility? “
Calling the bills “straightforward” and “modest,” McGovern claimed Republican opposition to them was a political ploy.
“They blame immigrants for everything: it’s raining today – they blame immigrants. Do you quarrel with your spouse? True, this is probably the fault of the immigrants. Are you having a bad day? Let’s blame the immigrants,” McGovern said. “That’s their MO, that’s what they’ve done, and it’s really offensive. It betrays the country’s highest values.”
“If you put your life on the line to protect and defend this country, you and your family deserve every opportunity to become a U.S. citizen if you choose,” he added.