Immigration Bills for Veterans, Mixed-Status Families Passed by House Committee

Jul 29, 2022
1:43 PM

Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-TX (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

WASHINGTON — Two low-key immigrant relief bills passed the House Judiciary Committee markup on Wednesday night.

The American Families United Act would help keep mixed-status families together, while the Veterans Service Recognition Act would fast-track citizenship for immigrants who serve in the U.S. military and help bring home veterans who have been deported.

The mixed-status families bill has 71 bipartisan cosponsors after being introduced in April 2021 by Reps. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and David Valadao (D-TX).

“It’s a high priority for me,” Escobar told Latino Rebels in April before meeting with members of the Problem Solvers Caucus to get Republican votes. “If I can get Republicans to support it, it might be more likely to move forward.”

The mixed-status families legislation allows federal law enforcement agencies to exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis by declining to deport or bar certain immigrants from entering the country. It also removes the requirement that a U.S. citizen parent must be present in the country for five years before giving birth for their child to be granted birthright citizenship.

“Americans in mixed-status families experience trauma every day related to their family member’s immigration case,” said Kali Pliego, president of American Families United, an organization that advocates for the bill, in a press release. “We have families who have been forcefully separated due to a visa denial, despite immediate family ties to U.S. citizens. We have whole families, including American children, who have uprooted their lives in America to live somewhere else to keep their family intact. And we have U.S. citizen spouses and children who live in fear that the U.S. government will deport their loved one.”

The bill focusing on immigrant veterans would allow noncitizens to file for permanent residency as early as basic training when they sign up to serve in the U.S. military. It would also allow some veterans who have been deported to return to the United States if they haven’t committed serious crimes.

“As we discussed at our hearing last month in the Immigration Subcommittee, immigrants have served in the U.S. armed forces in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War. Every day, 45,000 immigrants actively serving in the U.S. armed forces risk their lives in support of our country,” said House Judiciary chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in a press release.

“While military service can offer an expedited pathway to naturalization, many noncitizen service members leave the military without becoming a U.S. citizen because of unnecessarily burdensome requirements that they must meet,” Nadler continued. “Further, many service members have family members who lack lawful status in the United States with no ability to adjust their status. As a result, while our military personnel are deployed protecting U.S. global interests and keeping our nation safe, they must worry if their loved ones will be apprehended in an immigration raid and potentially be deported.”

When asked by Latino Rebels on Thursday if he thinks his legislation for deported veterans will see a floor vote in the house, Nadler said he didn’t know.

Meanwhile, Escobar told Latino Rebels on Thursday that she is working with House leadership to get her mixed-status families bill to a floor vote, but called on advocates to begin pressuring senators to take up the bill in the upper chamber of Congress.


Pablo Manríquez is the Capitol Hill correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports