A Democratic congressman claimed Saturday that roughly 1,400 U.S. military veterans had been deported in recent years, and advocated for providing assistance to veterans who had been deported.
Rep. Vincente Gonzales (D-CA) held an event and Q&A over the weekend with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) focusing on the need for a comprehensive changes to American immigration law and enforcement.
Gonzales told the Rio Grande Guardian afterward that he believed “about 1,400 veterans” had been deported. The paper said the claim included deportations in recent years, which would include during the Obama administration, but there are no official counts available publicly of veteran deportations to support that claim. Gonzales’ office did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.
“I am looking for a Republican colleague to join me in this effort,” to help deported veterans, Gonzales told the paper. “It is the most American thing to do. To take of our veterans who fought for us. Many were highly decorated veterans that were in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of them came hope with high levels of PTSD. We didn’t offer them the mental healthcare they needed to transition them back into society.”
“These are folks who have never had any legal trouble in their life. They were discharged honorably. They get into a little trouble and they are deported,” he said.
Gonzales told the paper the veterans were deported “mostly to Mexico and Central America. There is a community living in Baja, California.”
The military provides for an expedited citizenship process for active duty service members and veterans, but plenty of caveats still apply.
The Obama administration’s priority of deporting undocumented people convicted of violent crimes included a number of veterans, but, according to an NPR report last year, no count of such deportations is available.
President Trump, in an executive order, expanded immigration enforcement priorities to include any undocumented person even charged with a criminal offense, and those who “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense; have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency; have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits; are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”