For decades, a criminal narrative has been used to justify the mass deportation of long-term members of our workforce, our communities and our unions. Shamefully, this approach has even led to the deportation of U.S. military veterans and their family members. This is a stain on our nation’s honor.
From the American Revolution to the present day, immigrants have served in the U.S. armed forces in significant numbers and often been deployed in combat. Despite their proud service, our government has deported an unknown number of veterans, usually based on post-service criminal convictions. Like so many others who have been failed by our public support systems and targeted by our biased criminal justice system, these veterans were not afforded adequate support to reintegrate into the workforce or to address trauma, substance abuse and other medical issues resulting from their service. Some deported veterans and their families have begun to organize, seeking legal pathways to return before they die. Deported veterans can only return to the United States upon their death and are eligible for burial in U.S. military cemeteries.
Under the leadership of the Union Veterans Council, the AFL-CIO is embarking on a campaign to end these injustices, bring our deported veterans home, reunite families, and prevent further efforts to criminalize and deport our immigrant communities. In partnership with the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, we will provide legal support to deported veterans and mount political advocacy in the states and communities where they resided. Repatriating our veterans and protecting their family members will be a core part of the labor movement’s comprehensive immigration strategy, and we will highlight the stories of these patriots to challenge the criminal narrative that has plagued the immigration debate for too long.