May 26, 2017

Rep. Juan Vargas Reintroduces Deported Veterans Bill Package

Washington, D.C. (May 26, 2017)—Congressman Juan Vargas (CA-51) reintroduced a bill package that will prevent veterans from being deported and help veterans that have been deported get access to the medical service they deserve. The Immigrant Veterans Eligibility Tracking System (I-VETS) Act of 2017, Healthcare Opportunities for Patriots in Exile (HOPE) Act of 2017, and Naturalization at Training Sites (NATS) Act of 2017 are part of this legislative package.

“A number of our nation’s servicemembers are immigrants who answered the call to serve and protect our nation and our freedom,” said Rep. Vargas. “These bills will ensure that immigrant servicemembers are well informed on their path to naturalization and allow veterans who have been deported to access the health care services they need.”

Sadly, many non-citizen service members and veterans are deported every year due to a lack of information and tracking of these individuals. This effectively denies these deported service members the medical care they earned and, in many cases, require. The HOPE Act would allow deported veterans the opportunity to temporarily parole back into the United States to seek care from a VA facility.

“All U.S. military veterans, regardless of their immigration status, should be able to access the VA benefits they have rightfully earned by serving our country,” stated Rep. Vargas. “These brave men and women were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country, so it's time for us to make sure that all of our veterans, including those that have been deported, are taken care of.”

Many foreign-born soldiers enlist in the military under the belief that military service will automatically make them U.S. citizens. Unfortunately, the federal government does not adequately inform them of the necessary steps for naturalization. The NATS Act aims to provide naturalization services at training sites.

Currently, neither the Department of Defense, nor the Department of Homeland Security, track the progress of service members and veterans’ immigration status. The I-VETS Act will establish an immigrant veteran’s eligibility tracking system.

About H.R. 2760 – I-VETS Act of 2017

  • The Immigrant Veterans Eligibility Tracking System (I-VETS) Act of 2017 helps identify active and retired non-citizen servicemembers.  The bill directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify non-citizens who have served in the armed forces when applying for immigration benefits or when placed in immigration enforcement proceedings.  This information will enable DHS to “fast track” veterans and service members who are applying for naturalization, while also allowing officials to practice prosecutorial discretion, if appropriate, when adjudicating their cases.

About H.R. 2761 – HOPE Act of 2017

  • The Healthcare Opportunities for Patriots in Exile (HOPE) Act of 2017 will allow deported veterans the opportunity to temporarily parole back into the United States to seek care from a VA facility.  The bill amends section 212 (d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act accordingly to give the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion to temporarily parole deported veterans into the U.S. on a case by case basis to seek healthcare then return home. 

About H.R. 2759 – NATS Act of 2017

  • The Naturalization at Training Sites (NATS) Act of 2017 ensures that non-citizen servicemembers are well informed of the naturalization options available to them.  The bill will (1) direct each branch of the Armed Forces to establish a naturalization office at their initial training sites; (2) instruct the Secretary of Defense to identify and contact non-citizen service members and inform them of their options; (3) require the Department of Defense (DOD) to retain trained staff at the established naturalization offices; and (4) encourage the Secretary to assign non-citizen recruits to training sites with operating naturalization offices pending the completion of said offices at all training sites.  

Vargas represents California’s 51st Congressional District which includes the southern portion of San Diego County, all of Imperial County and California’s entire U.S./Mexico border.  Vargas was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 and is currently serving his third term in Congress.  He serves on the House Financial Services Committee.