Deported veterans and those living in the U.S. under fear of deportation will soon have their concerns raised as a political issue by a retired Army Reserve officer, immigration lawyer and MacArthur fellow who announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
Margaret Stock this week said she will run as an independent for the Senate seat currently held by Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska.
Stock has been a vocal critic of a Clinton-era crime bill that included stripping "green card" holders of their legal residency and deporting them if convicted of crimes that could carry at least a year in jail.
Under the law, thousands of veterans, including those who had come to the U.S. legally as children and served in the military, have been deported, sometimes to countries whose language they do not speak.
"If elected, that's an issue I would work on immediately," Stock told Military.com on Wednesday.
She will be running against a candidate who kept her Senate seat in 2010 through a successful write-in campaign after first losing the GOP nomination to Tea Party favorite Joe Miller.
Stock is a retired lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army Military Police Corps, Army Reserve. Her last assignment before retiring was as an associate professor in the Social Studies Department at West Point, where she taught constitutional and military law from 2001 to 2006. She was also course director and professor of national security law.
During her military career, Stock was assigned to the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness; the U.S. Army Accessions Command, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs; and as a special advisor to Adm. Eric Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, from May 2008 to September 2009.
In 2013, she was named a MacArthur Fellow, an honor that comes with a grant of more than $600,000 to allow a recipient to continue work in their specialized area.
Craig Shagin, an attorney in Pennsylvania who has been heavily involved in veteran deportation cases, said he "can't think of a more qualified person" than Stock to be a senator.
"She has knowledge in military [issues], she's knowledge in national security, and she's an exceptionally competent lawyer," he said. "And not just in the abstract, but as a practitioner. And she genuinely loves Alaska, so maybe she's a perfect candidate."
Shagin believes Stock is running for "all the right reasons. She's quite patriotic, and concerned about people getting it right."
Stock was singled out by the MacArthur Foundation for her work emphasizing the impact of immigration law on service members and their families and in developing programs that adapt existing laws to better the lives of both immigrants and native-born military personnel.
In Washington, she worked with lawmakers to develop the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI, which allows legal non-citizens with in-demand skills to join the Army in exchange for expedited U.S. citizenship. She also worked on the military portion of what's now known as the DREAM Act.
She says that as a Senator she could do even more.
"People traditionally think senators just pass laws, but they don't. They also work with the federal agencies to try to get reforms in place, they hold hearings, they investigate things," she said. "They bring to the attention of the executive branch things that are not right, that the President hasn't noticed.
Over the years, Stock has been in the forefront of efforts to end the deportation of veterans who, though legal residents who had served in the military, suddenly found themselves without green cards and deported to places that many never knew as a home.
No one knows for certain how many veterans have been deported but it's believed they are in the thousands.
But Stock said the country's immigration laws are not only hurting veterans and their families, they're hurting the military readiness.
"The dysfunction of the immigration system has dried up the recruiting pool for the Pentagon," she said. "Less than 20 percent of Americans of military age can even meet military enlistment standards? And the military is still having a hard time finding military recruits even with downsizing."
One reason for that is because it's taking so few immigrants, Stock said.
"In past wars they recruited large numbers of immigrants. They no longer do that," she said. "We have the lowest participation rate of immigrants in the military in history -- the lowest ever."
At the time the U.S. entered World War I, immigrants made up about 20 percent of the Army, Stock said, and even during the Vietnam War "they drafted immigrants like crazy."
"Everybody agrees the immigration system is broken but it's having really bad societal impacts all over the place," she said. "It's costing the government huge amounts of money, it's a security problem and it hurts the military."
--Bryant Jordan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.
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