Mon. Apr 6th, 2020

A retired Army officer in the Senate introduced a bill this week that would protect a policy allowing family members of service members and veterans to remain in the U.S. temporarily without threat of deportation.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, wants to safeguard these family members with the Military Family Parole in Place Act. The program allows some parents, children and spouses of active-duty troops, reservists and veterans to temporarily remain in the U.S., but Trump administration officials are considering scaling it back.

The program gives troops’ and veterans’ family members who came to the U.S. illegally the chance to adjust their immigration status without leaving the country. Officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began reviewing the program this summer, when some family members began hearing the program was being terminated.

Duckworth called the possibility of ending the deportation protections “cruel and inhumane.”

Related: ICE Is Deporting Veterans Without Checking Their Service Status, Watchdog Says

“Our troops serving overseas should be focused on doing their jobs, not worrying about whether their family members will be deported,” she said in a statement. “[This is] a direct threat to our military readiness.”

Under her proposed legislation, the Department of Homeland Security would still have the authority to deny parole to family members of troops and veterans. But it would require the Defense and Veterans Affairs secretaries to sign off on the deportation plan.

Duckworth’s Military Family Parole in Place Act would also require officials to publicly disclose the decisions.

“The agencies would then be required to publicly post online all such denials, including a detailed justification for each denial (excluding personally identifiable information),” a release about the bill states.

The Parole in Place program was stood up during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was meant to prevent troops from worrying that their family members could be deported while they were deployed.

Military Times reported last year that the Trump administration denied about twice as many requests for deportation protection from veterans and their dependents as the Obama administration did.

In 2016, the Obama administration denied 140 of 1,304 requests, the outlet reported. In 2017, the Trump administration denied 250 of 1,449 requests, according to Military Times.

Duckworth’s bill has been co-sponsored by nine other Democratic senators: Ed Markey of Massachusetts; Catherine Cortez-Masto of Nevada; Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Robert Menendez of New Jersey; Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Chris Coons of Delaware; Dick Durbin of Illinois; Tim Kaine of Virginia; and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

— Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read more: Far Fewer Troops Applying to Be US Citizens This Year, Officials Say

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