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Deported Vets Who Return Stateside Face Uncertain Futures

September 08, 2022 (2 min read)

Suzanne Monyak, Roll Call, Sept. 8, 2022

"Juan Quiroz, a father of four and U.S. Army veteran, got to celebrate his birthday in the U.S. with his children in July for the first time since he was deported nearly a decade ago. The former Army mechanic is one of more than two dozen people to have the chance to come back to the U.S. as part of a recent Biden administration initiative to help deported veterans and their families. But like many veterans returned under that effort, he is living under a temporary immigration status that expires after a year, and he faces limited options to regain his green card and become a citizen of the nation to which he’s already sworn allegiance. “How are you going to tell my children that they can have their daddy back, but then you’re going to tear us apart again after a year?” Quiroz said. “It doesn’t make sense.” Quiroz and others have returned to the U.S. under the initiative after being granted humanitarian parole, which gives foreign citizens permission to return to and live in the U.S. under the government’s discretion for set increments of time. ... “To be honest, humanitarian parole is just like a Band-Aid on a bullet hole,” said James Smith, co-director of the Black Deported Veterans of America. ... Not only does parole not lead to a green card, it can be revoked at any time or not renewed and allowed to expire. Since the program is a discretionary status, these veterans remain at the whims of whatever political administration is in power. “Is this administration going to renew those parole periods?” said Amanda Schuft, an attorney with the Immigrant Defenders Law Center who represented deported veterans. “If a different president is elected, is the initiative going to be able to continue?” ... Margaret Stock, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve who practices immigration law, said as of late July she had yet to get a client successfully paroled into the country under the initiative. She said she has focused so far on people eligible for naturalization but has run into issues with interagency coordination and multiple layers of bureaucracy. ... Congress could step in to ease the process for deported veterans to regain permanent status. In late July, the House Judiciary Committee advanced legislation to streamline the naturalization process for foreign-born veterans and ensure their status as veterans is considered if they find themselves in deportation proceedings. But the bill, introduced by Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, did not garner a single Republican vote — previewing bleak odds even if it did make it to the more narrowly divided Senate. To solve the problems related to deporting veterans long-term, Congress needs to act, said Robert Vivar, co-director of Unified U.S. Deported Veterans."