Threat of separation hangs over mixed-status military families and harms military readiness
Alejandra’s story illustrates the acute threat of deportation and family separation hanging over millions of mixed-status families—i.e. those in which family members hold different immigration statuses, including that of U.S. citizens, permanent residents, individuals on temporary visas, asylees and refugees, and individuals who are undocumented.3
Being related to a U.S. veteran or a U.S. citizen typically carries little weight in immigration enforcement matters. The government is supposed to consider a history of military service for an individual who is charged with immigration violations, but that consideration does not extend to the individual’s immediate family members, and the standard has been inconsistently applied among immigrant veterans, too.
This uncertainty and fear harms military readiness: service members, particularly those deployed overseas, have to carry the fear and worry of their families being separated while they are serving, and may even have to leave their service to care for their loved ones. This was part of USCIS’ justification for formalizing discretionary protective measures in 2013.
During a 2008 hearing regarding “Immigration Needs of America’s Fighting Men and Women,” Representative John Conyers (D-MI), then the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, strongly affirmed: “Nobody should be distracted from their mission, fearing that their parents or siblings, or spouses will be arrested and deported. Nobody should have to go into combat fearing that if they are killed, their spouse will lose their ability to adjust to lawful status.”