SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A bill created to provide a legal aid funding to non-citizen veterans deported from the country cleared another hurdle Tuesday.
AB 386, introduced by state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher in February, was approved 8-1 by the state Judiciary Committee. It will now be reviewed by the state Appropriations Committee, Gonzalez Fletcher announced.
"Immigrants who serve and fight for our country earn the right to become citizens," Gonzalez Fletcher said in a release. "That's common sense, it's a powerful way to recruit bright and talented young men and women, and it's federal law. But instead of keeping our promises, we've kicked these veterans out of the country they fought for."
Special provisions of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act allow U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to fast-track the application and naturalization process for current and former service members, according to Gonzalez Fletcher.
"These provisions are being flouted or ignored when it comes to these veterans, many of whom came to the United States as children, grew up here, and consider themselves patriotic Americans," Gonzalez Fletcher said. "In many cases, the veterans who are deported are sent to countries with which they do not speak the language or have any real connection."
According to the bill's text, passage would require:
- The State Department of Social Services to either contract with qualified nonprofit legal service organizations, or nonprofit agencies to fund nonprofit legal service organization subcontractors, to provide legal services to deported veterans, as defined.
- Would authorize the department to contract with organizations that provide postconviction relief services to immigrants.
- Would reestablish the Veteran Reentry Assistance Fund to accept donations from private foundations or other philanthropic organizations to serve more individuals needing legal services.
- Would appropriate an undefined sum from the state's General Fund to the Social Services department to implement these listed provisions.