Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ordered immigration agencies to take immediate steps to ensure eligible veterans are able to return to the U.S., according to a memo obtained by Fox News. Mayorkas also said the government would review its policies.
"The Department of Homeland Security recognizes the profound commitment and sacrifice that service members and their families have made to the United States of America," Mayorkas said in a statement. "Together with our partner the Department of Veterans Affairs, we are committed to bringing back military service members, veterans, and their immediate family members who were unjustly removed and ensuring they receive the benefits to which they may be entitled. Today we are taking important steps to make that a reality."
DHS is working to set up a resource center to help interested veterans with their immigration applications. It is also working to ensure that veterans have access to the benefits that they are entitled to, in addition to COVID-19 vaccines.
The actions were first reported by The Washington Post on Friday.
The Immigration and Nationality Act allows service members to acquire citizenship if they satisfy eligibility criteria.
A 2019 report by the Government Accountability Office found that the U.S. likely does not have an accurate count of how many veterans have been deported because ICE did not keep consistently keep track. The report noted that some of the veterans who were removed may not have received the level of review appropriate for cases former service members.
An advocacy group called the Deported Veterans Support House said that it has come into contact with at least 400 veterans who have been deported, faced deportation or have had legal issues with immigration. All of those individuals have a strong desire to return to the U.S., the group said.
During his campaign, President Biden criticized President Donald Trump for deporting undocumented veterans without checking their record of military service. He pledged to protect these individuals and their spouses from deportation.