Tammy Duckworth on Her Fight to Shield Veterans From Deportation

The Democratic senator from Illinois is pushing for legislation that would end the government’s practice of deporting people who have served honorably in the United States military.

By Luke Broadwater

WASHINGTON — Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois and an Army veteran who lost her legs in the Iraq war, has been pushing hard in Congress in recent weeks to try to end the federal government’s practice of deporting undocumented immigrants who served honorably in the military.

Ms. Duckworth, who was among the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom and who served alongside undocumented immigrants, recently released a report scrutinizing the practice of deporting veterans. She wants her bill to curb the practice included in an immigration package being discussed among a bipartisan group of senators, which itself faces long odds.

The Biden administration on Friday announced plans to provide greater support for deported veterans, including efforts to return those eligible to the United States and provide others with greater access medical care. Ms. Duckworth applauded the move, which she said would “help right some of these wrongs” but added that, “it is still critical Congress change the laws that allowed this to happen in the first place.”

She spoke last week with The New York Times about her efforts. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Your report, “Immigrant Veterans: Deported by the Same Nation They Sacrificed to Defend,” cited Government Accountability Office data that showed at least 92 veterans were deported from 2013 to 2018, though the number could be much higher, and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials frequently did not follow their own policies when deporting veterans, including failing to review military service when initiating deportation proceedings. What stands out to you from your staff’s research?

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