On Joe Biden’s first day as president, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ordered a review of all U.S. deportation efforts. That review process is now expanding to include a review of deportations of military veterans and military family members during former President Donald Trump’s administration.
In a statement to McClatchy this week, White House assistant press secretary Vedant Patel said, “The administration’s immigration enforcement will focus on those who are national security and public safety threats, not military families, service members or veterans.”
Patel added, “The federal government in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security will take further review of removals of veterans and their family members.”
During Trump’s presidency, several military veterans and their family members faced deportations for various reasons.
Army veteran Miguel Perez Jr. was deported in 2018 after serving a 7-year prison sentence for a felony drug conviction. After a lawsuit, Perez was allowed back into the U.S. and gained citizenship. He was later invited as a guest of Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL) at Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address.
Belize-born U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Army Reserve soldier Roman Sabal was similarly deported before being allowed back into the U.S. and sued to gain U.S. citizenship.
Rocio Rebollar Gomez, an illegal immigrant and the mother of Army 2nd Lt. Gibram Cruz, was also deported during the Trump administration, in another controversial immigration case.
Service members fearing that there families may be deported “is a really common occurrence, probably more so than many Americans may realize,” Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) told McClatchy.
Service members do not have to be U.S. citizens to serve. “Green Card” holders, foreign-born recruits with specialized language or medical skills or special status non-immigrant enlistees who are residents of the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau are all allowed to serve, according to McClatchy. The spouses, widows, parents, or children of active-duty service members, or veterans who weren’t dishonorably discharged, are also eligible to have their deportations deferred by up to two years.
“We know at any particular time there may be as many as 8,000 to 10,000 service members, or spouses particularly, in the immigration process” seeking citizenship, Soto told McClatchy, citing statistics from the immigration advocacy group American Families United.
In addition to reviewing deportations, Biden administration has also ordered a 100-day pause on “certain noncitizen” deportations. Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske said the pause “will allow DHS to ensure that its resources are dedicated to responding to the most pressing challenges that the United States faces, including immediate operational challenges at the southwest border in the midst of the most serious global public health crisis in a century.”
Texas has already sued the Biden administration over the deportation pause, accusing the administration of breaching federal law and a contractual agreement to consult and cooperate with Texas on deportation issues. A federal judge has already ruled in Texas’ favor in the case, and put a temporary stop to the deportation freeze. The Biden administration is likely to appeal the case.