CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - As of January this year there were more than 10,000 non-citizens serving in the U.S. military, and more than 11,000 in the reserves. What you may not be aware of is that some of those vets have actually been deported.
However, one South Texas congressman is trying to change that by submitting legislation that he says has bipartisan support.
Rio Grande Valley Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, who represents parts of the Coastal Bend, has introduced a bill called "Repatriate Our Patriots."
The congressman shared a story of a soldier who was deported after serving the U.S.
"While he was there he went into enemy fire, saved six American lives, was a Purple Heart recipient," Gonzalez said.
PTSD, however, caused the soldier to get into trouble.
"He begins drinking and has a drinking problem, and is arrested for three DUIs, and the next thing you know he finds himself in a deportation center being deported," Gonzalez said. "And I was shocked and appalled that we would do that to an American hero."
The bill would allow deported veterans who were honorably discharged or released to go through the naturalization process abroad. Deported vets who have been convicted of violent crimes, including terrorism, cannot come back.
"These are all veterans who had no prior history before entering the servive, who served honorably and who were honorably discharged," Gonzalez said. "There's a lot of men and women who served but were born somewhere else."
Veterans in the Coastal Bend said they support it.
"During 2003, when Iraq began, one of the first killed in action was born in Matamoros and lived in Brownsville, and that was his wish to be an American citizen," Veteran Ram Chavez said. "Unfortunately he was killed in action."
"I agree that this is a good bill," Veteran Israel Ramirez said. "That any person that served in the Army, I don't care what nationality it is, they deserve to be a U.S. citizen."
As it stands now, Congressman Gonzalez' bill does not address the benefits the repatriated patriots would be entitled to, but he hopes to address that issue once this bill is signed into law.
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