Deported U.S. military veterans Andy de Leon (left) and Alejandro Gomez Cortez in a support house in Tijuana. Photo by David Maung for CAL matters

The Biden administration’s plan to bring home deported American service members won praise this week from Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, a Marine combat veteran who has assisted service members stranded in Tijuana.

On Friday Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the new initiative to identify deported service members and help them and their immediate families return to the United States.

“The Department of Homeland Security recognizes the profound commitment and sacrifice that service members and their families have made to the United States of America,” said Mayorkas. “Together with our partner the Department of Veterans Affairs, we are committed to bringing back military service members, veterans, and their immediate family members who were unjustly removed.”

Mayorkas directed U.S. immigration agencies, including ICE, to ensure that all eligible current and former noncitizen service members and their immediate families of military members are able to remain in or return to the United States.

“President Biden followed through on his promise to correct our dishonorable immigration practice of deporting veterans,” said Fletcher. “As someone who’s worked on this issue for years, it has always been an uphill battle, but now the road to repatriation is cleared for these heroes.”

Last year, at Fletcher’s urging, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved placing an office across the U.S.-Mexico border to help deported veterans receive federal benefits.

An estimated several thousand veterans have been expelled from the United States since 1996, when deportation of immigrants with certain convictions became mandatory, with no judicial discretion.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis R. McDonough said the United States has a “responsibility to serve all veterans as well as they have served us — no matter who they are, where they are from, or the status of their citizenship” and vowed to work with DHS to make that happen.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.