Should VA open facilities in Mexico to provide deported veterans access to benefits?

Elizabeth Howe
July 11, 2019 - 12:40 pm

Photo courtesy of DVIDS

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Policies regarding obtaining citizenship during or after military service have been changing over the past few presidential administrations. They've been doing so inconsistently and haven't been uniformly implemented. As a result, countless veterans have been unexpectedly and, in some cases, unfairly deported. 

“No one willing to wear our uniform should be deported by the same nation they sacrificed to defend. No one serving overseas should be worried that their loved ones back at home will be deported by the time they finish the mission at hand,” Duckworth said. “From a military readiness perspective, the Trump Administration’s efforts to deport Veterans and proposal to deport military families is a direct threat to military readiness—and it’s senseless and counterproductive, too.”

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Now, these veterans are in foreign countries — some stranded for years as they work to re-enter the United States — with no access to the veteran benefits they earned serving the country. 

During the Hillvets CAPCON panel titled "Veteran Before American: The Ethics of Deporting Immigrant Veterans," Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., discussed her legislation that would require VA to establish facilities in Mexico so those veterans could access benefits. 

"I introduced legislation that says all veterans who are currently deported should be granted a visa in order to come back so they can access their VA benefits," Duckworth said. "I would like also to send VA services into Tijuana, into Mexico where most of these veterans are so that they can get the services that they've earned."

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We provide services to veterans who retire in foreign countries — this would be no different, Duckworth argued. 

"And to say that you can't access them is wrong. We actually have veterans in places like the Philippines who have retired and we have a VA office there. If we do this for other veterans why wouldn't we do it for the ones who we've deported?"

House Committee on Veteran's Affairs Chairman Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., agrees that something must be done about both the veterans who face deportation and the ones who have been deported — but VA facilities in Mexico may not be the answer. 

"There are poor veterans who can't travel to Mexico City. They don't have the money. We were able to make sure there were contract companies in Tijuana who could serve veterans. But we don't really have a good accounting of where these veterans are." 

They're also not all in Mexico, Takano explained. It would be difficult to determine where these foreign VA facilities are most needed. 

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"Here's the thing. It's a matter of moral principle — and we have to communicate that with the American people," Takano said. "They don't believe that we've done this. This doesn't have to be about this administration. It's a broken immigration system. It's a military that doesn't fully stand behind the promise it makes when it recruits people."

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