As another Veteran’s Day comes to pass, it’s worth considering the long history of immigrants serving in the US military. Immigrants made up 18% of draftees during WWI, which was a time of peak migration to the United States,¹ and there were 300,000 foreign born members of the US military that served during WWII.² During WWII, the need for soldiers was so great that even the proof of lawful entry requirement was lifted for a time for foreign born soldiers seeking US citizenship.
You probably know that today, an immigrant can’t serve in the US military without LPR status or a “green card,”³ but even a green card holding veteran can end up on the wrong side of the US immigration system. Immigrant veterans can still face deportation for committing crimes, even lower class, nonviolent ones such as drug offenses. Drugs, alcohol, and mental health struggles come up frequently in the stories of deported veterans, who often trace their deportation-related offense back to PTSD acquired while serving. While any active duty military member is at increased risk of developing PTSD,⁴ immigrant veterans are uniquely vulnerable to outsize consequences when dealing with the fallout of trauma.
The Biden administration has announced plans to review veteran deportations that occurred during the Trump administration, but many advocates wonder what material changes this will bring, as well as pointing out that the unfair deportation of veterans started well before President Trump took office.⁵⁶
As we honor those who have served our country this Veteran’s Day, we should also take a moment to reflect on the many immigrants who courageously served alongside their US born comrades in fighting for our freedoms.
If you’re interested in doing pro bono work to help veterans, you can check out volunteer opportunities available through the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program.
To find cases from active duty servicemembers that need legal representation, visit the Military Pro Bono Project website.
If you are feeling inspired by this message of support for immigrant veterans, please visit the Veterans for Peace Deported Veterans Advocacy Project donation page.
This blog post was written by Dina Knott, an Americorps VISTA member currently serving with Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) as Volunteer and Community Education Project Coordinator. So far, she has enjoyed working on finding and selecting resources to keep IAN’s nonprofit library up to date and updating the IAN Legal Directory, which lists free and low cost legal service providers.