October 23, 2023
White House initiative and lack of transparency could put more Americans in danger
|WASHINGTON—The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) has filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), seeking to compel both agencies to produce internal communications about a program to return previously-deported aliens to the United States if they have served in the military.|
IRLI submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in April 2023 to DHS and USCIS requesting the agencies’ policies regarding this initiative as well as information about any aliens actually returned from other countries under the program.
In July 2021, the Biden Administration launched an official effort both to stop removal proceedings against aliens who have served in the military as well as to return those who had already been removed.
Under FOIA, an agency is supposed to determine whether and to what extent it will comply with a request and provide relevant public records within twenty working days. However, more than five months after IRLI’s request was submitted, neither agency had produced anything in response to IRLI’s request. Accordingly, IRLI filed suit to compel production of the requested information.
Some provisions of federal law make serving in the military a path to citizenship, yet rarely one the people affected by this program have actually used. While these “deported veterans” may sound sympathetic, they have overwhelmingly committed serious crimes, whether in the military or civilian criminal justice system. Federal immigration law generally requires removal of aliens with significant felony convictions as well as certain misdemeanor convictions.
The lawful way for those who have served in our armed forces to become U.S. citizens and no longer risk deportation is to avoid committing crimes. According to USCIS, over 158,000 military members have been naturalized as U.S. citizens since 2002. Unlike “deported veterans,” these new citizens have not committed crimes that prevented their naturalization or resulted in them being removed from the United States.
“This administration has made clear its desire to keep criminal aliens in the country, and now they are exploiting the American people’s support of military veterans to allow more potentially dangerous aliens to stay,” said Dale L. Wilcox, IRLI’s executive director and general counsel. “To make it worse, this White House is ignoring its legal obligation to respond to requests for information about this program. We will pursue this case so our citizens can know the truth about yet another Biden Administration effort that goes against their interests.”
In our constitutional system of separation of powers, the executive branch is supposed to enforce the law, not create programs to evade and undermine it. If the Biden Administration thinks current law is somehow unfair because it does not privilege veterans ahead of other convicted criminal aliens, they can convince Congress to change the law, but so far Congress has rightly not been receptive to the idea of legally allowing more convicted criminals to enter the country.
“The Executive Branch does not have any power to create new immigration programs without Congressional authorization,” said Matt O’Brien, IRLI’s director of investigations. “The fact is, we don’t give U.S. citizens who commit felonies a free pass simply because they are veterans. IRLI would love to know why [DHS Secretary] Alejando Mayorkas and USCIS think it’s appropriate to launch a special amnesty, by executive fiat, that gives foreign criminals special treatment merely because they served briefly in our military services.”
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