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Chairman Nadler Statement for Hearing on "Oversight of Immigrant Military Members and Veterans"

Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship hearing on "Oversight of Immigrant Military Members and Veterans:"

"Immigrants have served in the U.S. armed forces in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War.  Today, there are approximately 45,000 immigrants actively serving in the U.S. armed services.  

"Every day, brave immigrant service members risk their lives in support of our country.  We rely on them to keep our nation safe and to protect U.S. global interests.  In return, we must honor their sacrifices by supporting them and their families, and by giving them every opportunity to become U.S. citizens if they so desire.  

"Unfortunately, the previous administration instituted many policy changes that made it harder for foreign-born service members to naturalize and inhibited our ability to recruit and retain highly qualified immigrants for important positions within our armed services.

"Such policy changes also undermined Congress’s clear intent to provide an expedited naturalization process for military service members and veterans.  For example, the Trump Administration ended naturalization at basic training and made it more difficult to receive a certification of honorable service, a document which is essential for naturalization based on military service.  

"The changes made by the Trump administration were unnecessary and cruel.  They served no purpose but to make it harder for individuals serving our country to become citizens.  As a result of these changes, military naturalizations declined 44 percent and the number of denials of military naturalization applications increased by nearly 50 percent.

"Fortunately, the Biden administration has been working to reverse the harmful effects of these policies.  In one of his first acts in office, President Biden directed the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State, and Justice to collaborate to facilitate naturalization for noncitizen service members.  

"Since receiving this directive, DHS and the VA have collaborated to create the Immigrant Military Members and Veterans Initiative, also known as IMMVI. This initiative helps immigrant veterans access VA benefits and, when appropriate, apply to be paroled into the United States.  DHS is also working to remove barriers to naturalization for service members and veterans.

"These efforts have paid off.  In Fiscal Year 2021, our military naturalization numbers returned to levels previously seen in Fiscal Year 2016, prior to the Trump administration’s intentional targeting of this population.  

"Members of the military place their lives at risk in service of this country each day.  We should not prevent them from becoming permanent members of our society.  I am pleased that the Biden administration is working to right those wrongs.

"During this hearing, we will discuss the efforts the Administration is undertaking to help immigrant service members and veterans, including those who have been removed from the United States as a result of convictions or other transgressions tied to post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injury, and other physical trauma suffered while on active duty.  Such circumstances can make the transition back to civilian life extremely difficult for veterans.  

"We can all agree that individuals who are rightfully convicted of a crime should serve any reasonable sentence imposed.  But once that sentence has been served, we should not simply turn our backs on those who sacrificed so much in service to our country.

"I want to thank Chair Lofgren for holding this important hearing, and I thank all of today’s witnesses for testifying.  I look forward to hearing about the efforts their agencies are undertaking to ensure that we are fulfilling our promises to our nation’s veterans, regardless of their citizenship status, and I yield back the balance of my time."

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