Brown, Colleagues, Introduce Bill to Improve Pathway to Citizenship for Eligible Service Members and Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – September 3, 2022 – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) to introduce legislation that would implement a program through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Defense (DOD) that would make it easier for veterans and servicemembers to become U.S. citizens. It would allow noncitizen service members to file for naturalization during basic training. The legislation would also allow noncitizen veterans who have been deported to apply for a Green Card if it is in the public interest and they haven’t been convicted of a serious crime. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA-41) and was marked up by the House Judiciary Committee in June.

“Our servicemembers and veterans answered the call to serve – there’s no greater commitment to citizenship than putting on the uniform,” said Brown. “We have a responsibility to make sure all veterans have access to the support and benefits they deserve for protecting our country.”

The Veteran Service Recognition Act of 2022 would:

  • Direct the DHS and DOD to implement a program that would allow noncitizen service members to file for naturalization during basic training. Family members of noncitizen service members can also file for an adjustment of status after they have served for at least two years.
  • Establish the Military Family Immigration Advisory Committee, which will be tasked with providing recommendations to DHS on whether a noncitizen who has served in the military or their family members should be granted a stay of removal, deferred action, parole, or be removed from the country.
  • Allow noncitizen veterans who have been removed or ordered removed to apply for and obtain a Green Card if it is in the public interest and they have not been convicted of a serious crime.
  • Require DHS to establish a program that allows deported veterans and their covered family members to be admitted back into the United States as lawful permanent residents, and directs DOJ to reopen their removal cases.

Lawful permanent residents join the Armed Forces every year. These noncitizen service members are eligible to become U.S. citizens if they have honorably served in the U.S. military for at least one year and meet other basic requirements. However, while in service, federal agencies fail to provide service members with the tools and resources they need to help them adjust their status. As a result, veterans who later commit certain crimes can be deported. DHS has failed to keep track of the number of veterans who have been deported.

Many service members and veterans have family members who are subject to deportation or who have been removed from the country. This burdens service members with additional worries, which is dangerous to our national security.

In addition to Senators Brown and Padilla, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Brown has been a leading voice in advocating for veterans. He is the longest serving Ohio Senator on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Recently, Brown met with local veterans in Bowling GreenEast LiverpoolZanesville, and Dayton to discuss the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 that was recently signed into law by President Biden. The PACT Act is the result of a years-long fight by Brown, veterans and advocates to secure access to Department of Veterans Affairs health care and disability benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals.

Full text of the bill is available here.