Are Military Veterans being deported due to Service Related PTSD?  

Unfortunately, the answer to this has been yes, but it may be changing. is a website that provides news and information about the US military, service members, veterans, and their families.  One of their postings is titled “Deported Veterans, Stranded Far from Home After Years of Military Service, Press Biden to Bring Them Back.” In that posting, they discuss the case of Ivan Ocon, who was born in Mexico and came to the US as a legal permanent resident in 1985 to reunite with his mother. He joined the Army in 1997 with promises from the recruiter that enlisting would make him a citizen. He was deployed to Iraq, planning on finishing the naturalization process when he returned to the US. Instead, he was convicted of a crime, jailed, released early for good behavior, and then deported to Mexico, separated from his family.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, Immigrants have served in the military since the Revolutionary War. 20% of the service members in the Union Army during the civil war were immigrants. By 1940 immigrants represented half of all military recruits, and as of 2022, FWD.US estimates that approximately 700,000 foreign-born veterans live in the US, many as citizens. They estimate that there are about 45,000 immigrants actively serving in the military. 

Immigrants contribute to the military and our safety by providing expertise in technology, engineering, foreign language knowledge, and cultural understanding, which is especially valuable in regions like the Middle East. The service of immigrants is especially important when the military has trouble meeting its recruitment goals. 

The US Government Accountability Office indicates that more than 250 veterans were placed in removal proceedings or deported from 2013-2018. A U.S. citizen veteran is not subject to removal or deportation, but those with permanent residence can be removed for certain criminal convictions. While military service can make it easier for permanent residents to naturalize, it is not automatic. 

Fwd.US has a good blog (dated 9-14-22) entitled “5 Things to Know About Immigrants in the Military;” I recommend reading this at This blog indicates that in the last 20 years, more than 148,000 immigrants have served and earned citizenship. But naturalizations of service members decreased by more than 70% from 2016-2020. The reason for this, in part, was due to the implementation of policies that made the application process more difficult, and in part, that military veteran applications for Naturalization were denied at twice the rate of civilian applications. The ACLU produced a report entitled “Discharged, then Discarded.” 

We have all heard of the high rate of PTSD in Veterans brought on by their military service. When the veteran is a legal resident but not a citizen, the veteran can end up convicted of a crime that they wouldn’t have committed without PTSD. This leads to deportation (now called removal) and separation from their families. Clearly, this is not the way to thank people for their service. 

The Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act was introduced in November of 2021 but did not receive a vote. But in 2021, the Biden administration announced that it planned on allowing veterans to return to the U.S. DHS Secretary Mayorkas ordered immigration agencies to take immediate steps to bring the veterans back. He stated: 

“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. 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 and ensuring they receive the benefits to which they may be entitled. Today we are taking important steps to make that a reality.” DHS now has a web page with resources to assist current and former Immigrant Military Members and their families, which provides a link to information about seeking to return to the U.S. after removal (deportation). This can be found at

Linda M Kaplan