A group of Senate Democrats announced a proposed law Wednesday that would protect immediate family members of service members and veterans from being deported, under certain circumstances.
The Military Family Parole in Place Act would reverse a 2019 Trump administration policy that directed Homeland Security Department officials to deny special extensions of legal residency that had been afforded to troops’ families in the past.
“Not only is it an inhumane action by DHS, it’s also just stupid when it comes to issues of military readiness,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, told Military Times in a Wednesday phone interview.
Parole in place is a temporary legal residency designation that has been used specifically for undocumented immigrants whose family members are serving or have served. It delayed deportation proceedings on a year-long, renewable basis and allowed recipients to work.
While no specific numbers of those affected were immediately available, past data of requests for military deportation relief have numbered in more than 1,000 a year.
Earlier this year, a DHS memo announced the end of the program, putting troops, veterans and their families at risk of deportation.
Duckworth’s bill ― co-sponsored by Sens. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-New Mexico, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, Chris Coons, D-Delaware, Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, Tim Kaine D-Virginia, and Ron Wyden D-Oregon ― would reinstate parole in place for parents, children, spouses or widow(er)s of service members, as well as those of veterans who were not dishonorably discharged.
The law does not address deferred action, which service members and veterans themselves have had access to in the pass, and that DHS memos have indicated a motivation to tighten up on.
DHS would still be able to deny parole in place, according to a Wednesday release from Duckworth’s office, but they would have to run the decisions by the defense secretary or VA secretary first, then post a detailed justification for each denial online monthly.
“It means that the policy allows it to be affected by the whims of any administration,” Duckworth said of the current DHS posture, adding that in the case of this administration, the policy was only supported by one corner of the federal government.
Duckworth spoke to Pentagon officials, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, about the policy, she said, “and they were completely astonished that DHS was doing this ... when you have two different departments within an administration who can’t agree on this policy, that actually affects military readiness.”
Though the bill is solely sponsored by Democrats now, Duckworth said she is courting Republican support.
“When I brought up this question in committee, there were quite a few Republicans who were surprised,” she said.
Duckworth, a medically retired Army helicopter pilot, said she would spend her Veterans Day in Tijuana with an organization that supports deported veterans.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT