On Veterans Day this year, AILA honors the service of military veterans, past and present.While honoring all veterans, the AILA leadership in particular acknowledges the contributions of those immigrants who have served in our nation’s Armed Forces.

We note at the outset that one of the military members killed in theFortHoodmassacre last week was a former immigrant fromMexicowho had risen to the rank of Major in the Army National Guard. In a classic immigrant success story, Libardo Eduardo Caraveo, age 52, had come to the US as a teenager, learned English, obtained a Ph.D., and eventually joined the US military more than a decade ago.He was assigned to an Army National Guard medical unit when he was murdered atFortHood.Another of theFortHoodvictims was Private First Class Kham Xiong, who came toAmericafromThailandas a child. Private Xiong had also volunteered to serve in our Nation’s Armed Forces. Contrary to some Internet postings, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the perpetrator of theFortHoodcrimes, was a native-born American citizen and not an immigrant.We honor Major Caraveo’s and Private Xiong’s service and mourn all of theFortHoodvictims. In their memory, American flags are flying at half-staff around our Nation.

That at least two of theFortHooddead had immigrated to theUnited Statesis not surprising; large numbers of immigrants and naturalized citizens serve in our Nation’s Armed Forces.TheImmigrationPolicyCenterreleased a report this week spotlighting the contributions of immigrants to the US Armed Forces.According to the Report, foreign-born members of our armed forces are almost eight percent of the 1.4 million military personnel on active duty.More than 119 immigrant members of the military have lost their lives in combat inIraqorAfghanistansince September 11, 2001.

This month was marked by two notable events relating to immigrants in the military:

On November 6, 2009, the President signed a law proclaiming that Casimir Pulaski, a famous Polish immigrant hero of the American Revolution, is now an honorary posthumous citizen of theUnited States.This proclamation led to mild joking amongst immigration attorneys (“That is the longest pending naturalization case that I have heard about”) but the passage of this law emphases an important point about American history: Immigrants have been key toAmerica’s success on the battlefield since the dawn of the Republic, and continue to be a vital asset today.

The large numbers of immigrants in the military and the worldwide deployment of US military personnel help explain why immigration issues affect military readiness.Immigrants in theUSmilitary seek to naturalize or to bring families members to theUSor adjust their status here.Many military members who are not immigrants themselves are married to immigrants or have other immigrant family members.Like everyone else in theUS, these military members and their families are affected by the dysfunction of our Nation’s broken immigration system.Military families often face hardship, separation, stress, and fear as they attempt to negotiate theUSimmigration system.

AILA members frequently represent military members, veterans, and their families through their immigration law practices.Additionally, AILA offers its members a unique opportunity to assist military members, veterans, and their families through the pro bono AILA Military Assistance Program (MAP). AILA MAP is a collaborative effort between AILA and military legal assistance offices. Military Legal Assistance Offices provide free assistance to soldiers and their families, but they have been inundated with complex immigration legal questions. To resolve these cases successfully, they often need the assistance and experience of seasoned immigration attorneys. AILA MAP volunteers to date have helped more than 350 military members, veterans, and their families with immigration-related issues. More than two hundred AILA members are AILA MAP volunteers.

In a positive development for many AILA MAP cases, this week marked the introduction of the Military Families Act, S. 2757, a bill designed to help thousands of military family members who have been hurt by immigration law dysfunction. The bill would adjust the status of the immediate family members of persons who served honorably in the Armed Forces of theUnited Statesduring theAfghanistanandIraqconflicts.Many potential beneficiaries of the bill are AILA MAP clients.The bill was introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and has five co-sponsors to date.We will be watching the progress of the bill in coming months, and look for a companion bill to be introduced in the House.

As we celebrate Veterans’ Day, let us not forget that AILA itself also has many members who are military veterans; a few of these are veterans who work as private practice immigration attorneys while at the same time they continue to serve in the US Armed Forces as members of the Reserve or National Guard. Today as we mark another Veteran’s Day, we also salute our AILA members who are veterans and thank them for their service.

Related Links:

President Obama’s speech at Fort Hood http://bit.ly/3DQlnM

IPC Report http://bit.ly/xJIvS

AILA MAP link http://bit.ly/1L9I7s

Military Families Act http://bit.ly/1Ds1a9

Casimir Pulaski Billhttp://bit.ly/2alB1k