If there were doubts about the intention of the current administration with regard to their intent in limiting military connected immigration and adjustment of status through military service, then the proposals sitting in legislative markup in congressional committees have raised the stakes and eliminated doubts that the Trump administration is determined on removing this path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and “out of status” immigrants.
Members of House Judiciary Committee voted yesterday, 26 July, to decimate the parole in place policy that applied to some military connected immigrants. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) led the charge to remove protections that will lead to increased deportations of military family members. One military connected immigration advocate, Lt.Col (Ret.) Margaret Stock, considers this as Representative Goodlatte as “[pulling] a fast one on his fellow representatives” and the addition of “deportable” as a reason to prohibit granting parole in place as a “sleight of hand.” It is questionable whether all twenty-one members of the Judiciary Committee understood that in voting for Rep. Goodlatte’s amendment they were in fact circumventing Parole in Parole more than they intended.
What is important to note is that if this amended version of Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz as HR. 391, results in passing the full House and Senate, parole in place would not even extend to all spouses of active duty service members nor their minor children automatically. This is because the addition of the word “deportable” has been added to “inadmissible” as reasons for why parole in place cannot be granted. The rub lies in the practical reality that no military connected immigrant even petitions for parole in place unless they are “out of [immigration] status” and are then, by definition, at risk of deportation.
This bill is subtitled: “to modify the treatment of unaccompanied alien children who are in Federal custody by reason of their immigration status, and for other purposes.”
Those “other purposes” include military connected immigration.
The uncertainty faced by those protected under parole in place, or who have been considering applying for parole in place has necessarily increased since those memos released by DHS memos released by Secretary Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security in February this year.
While the Executive Orders earlier this raised the level of concern among military connected immigrants to new heights, there was still hope that the Trump administration would make an exception for undocumented immigrants who have served in the U.S. military. There were grounds to believe that Trump did consider active duty service members as a special category. Specifically, at the Commander-in-Chief forum, held last September during the election campaign, then presidential candidate Trump said, “I think that when you serve in the armed forces, that’s a special situation, and I could see myself working that out. Absolutely.” He added, “If they plan on serving, if they get in, I would absolutely, for all of those people. Now, we have to be very careful, we have to vet very carefully, everybody would agree with that, but the answer is it would be a very special circumstance, yes.”
So far, there has been nothing specifically referencing military connected immigrants, nor exemptions for military veterans in Trump’s executive orders on immigration enforcement. There are also no safeguards to prevent legal permanent residents (Green Card holders) who have previously served in the military from being deported, nor for those currently serving or having served who are present in the US on parole (under PIP) from having that status revoked and being subject to deportation. In the latter case, it isn’t even that the active duty or military veterans will have committed any kind of crime – because simply being “out of status” is not in and of itself a crime.
Generally speaking, a legal permanent resident (Green Card holder) will only become deportable if they are reasonably suspected of committing a crime. Note, that this is not convicted, nor does the crime need to be violent. This is because of The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which made certain misdemeanors into deportable offenses.
So what now?
In general terms, if you are a recipient of PIP, then now might be the time to seek legal advice, and get your affairs in order including family care plans for minors.
Military family members who would like to see military connected immigrants have a path to citizenship, or have PIP reinstated, should call the members of the House Judiciary Committee and make your opinion known.
Deportation is becoming an increasing possibility for military veterans who are not US citizens if they have any kind of criminal record – even a misdemeanor. This is especially troubling under these proposed changes as the ACLU documented over 300 known cases of military veterans being deported. The “Discharged, Then Discarded” report found that deported veterans were in the U.S. legally and had sustained physical wounds and emotional trauma in conflicts as far back as the war in Vietnam. The connection between PTSD and a higher incidence of criminal conviction has been clearly shown. Because there is no provision for Immigration courts to consider military service in deportation proceedings, there is also no consideration as to any mitigating circumstances.
The challenge that lies ahead is two fold: both spouses, minor children, parents, and siblings of active duty service members who are in possession of Parole In Place, or who are undocumented are facing an increasingly difficult path to being “in status” and are right to be concerned about the possibility of deportation. The second is that immigrant military veterans are likely to face deportation if there is any reason they are otherwise inadmissible or deportable (including having a misdemeanor on their criminal record), even if while they served they were eligible for citizenship but did not finish the process.
Anna Blanch Rabe is an Australian-born writer, speaker, and advocate, the Spouse of an Active Duty United States Air Force service member, an attorney (currently non-practicing), and an immigrant. She has written for LawTog, MOAA, NextGen Milspouse, MSJDN, FitLegally, Military One Click, and Transpositions. She is also the CEO of Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates LLC, serving nonprofits, social enterprises, and attorneys with strategic, digital, and narrative initiatives.