SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Robert Vivar was part of a group of 60 who visited Washington, D.C., last week on behalf of deported veterans around the world.

Vivar and the others spent two days attending meetings with members of Congress, lobbying them to pass the Veterans Service Recognition Act. They also visited the White House and met with Biden administration staffers.

“Being able to walk the halls of Congress, shake hands with the people that are in charge of creating these laws and passing laws was very important,” said Vivar.

Vivar is the executive director of the Unified U.S. Deported Veterans Resource Center.

The group as well as other veterans advocates are behind the Veterans Service Recognition Act, which would allow non-citizen active-duty members of the military to become U.S. citizens after boot camp.

“Right now we have about 45,000 non-citizen military members serving in the U.S. military that are vulnerable to deportation, why vulnerable? because they’re not citizens,” said Vivar. “Should they commit a mistake they could very well end up being placed in removal proceedings.”

For decades, military veterans who were not U.S. citizens have been deported to the country of their origin after being convicted of a crime during their time in uniform or after getting out of the service.

Many, like Alex Murillo who grew up in Phoenix and had no connections to Mexico, have called the experience of being deported “horrible, depressing, painful and culture shock being in a country you don’t know.”

He was able to return to the U.S. in the spring of 2022 after spending 11 years in Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico.

The bill would also help other deported veterans to get back to the U.S.

“We need to support our U.S. veterans, keep in mind, this is a bipartisan bill, it’s not an immigration bill, it’s a veterans’ bill. When you’re out in combat it doesn’t matter what country you came from, all that matters is that you have your buddy’s back.”

Vivar stated that after spending time in D.C., he feels very optimistic the bill will eventually become law.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but they were willing to listen to us, to listen to the facts.”

According to Vivar, other veteran advocates, legal representatives, repatriated veterans and family members also made the trip and attended meetings and presentations.

“They (lawmakers) had an opportunity to not just hear a story or read about numbers, but actually meet the folks that have been affected and are now back in the country,” said Vivar. “This visit opened many doors for a continued discussion on the issue.”