Bill to ‘repatriate’ deported veterans gets new life in Democratic House

WASHINGTON — Two lawmakers have revived a bipartisan bill to bring deported veterans back to the United States as permanent legal residents and open up an expedited path to citizenship for pre-9/11 noncitizen veterans.

This week, Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska and Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas reintroduced their bill from last Congress — the “Repatriate Our Patriots Act.” It had floundered in 2017’s GOP-controlled Judiciary Committee.

But the former Republican committee chairman, Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, retired earlier this year.

Now Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York holds the committee gavel, and Gonzalez thinks the bill has a fighting chance to pass the House.

“I think people are much more receptive in a Democratic-controlled Congress,” Gonzalez told The Monitor in McAllen, Texas. “(Goodlatte) blocked it because he saw it as an immigration bill. I don’t see it as an immigration bill. I see that bill as a veterans bill. I think we have a responsibility to people who wore our uniform and fought for our freedom, and I think it’s one of the most shameful things we can imagine, deporting a veteran who was honorably discharged.”

Young has likewise indicated that he sees the bill through the lens of veteran protections.

“If you are willing to put your life on the line to defend this great nation and its values, you should be able to become a U.S. citizen,” Young told the Military Times. “It is inexcusable that service members who risked it all to protect us would be put through the deportation process.”

Even if it passes the House, the measure would still face long odds in the Republican-controlled Senate and on the desk of a president who has built his campaign messaging on being tough on both immigration and crime.

The bill would allow veterans who served honorably in the military but who committed nonviolent crimes after their discharge to remain in the country after they have completed their prison terms.

The proposal does not include veterans who were convicted of murder, rape, child abuse or terrorism, and it excludes immigrants in legal trouble while serving in the military.

For veterans who have been deported, the bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to allow them to return to U.S. soil as legal permanent residents with the chance of becoming citizens.

— CQ-Roll Call

Virginia will raise age for buying tobacco, e-cigarettes to 21

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia will become the first major tobacco-producing state to raise the minimum age for buying nicotine products, including cigarettes and e-cigarettes, as the General Assembly tries to crack down on teen vaping.

Bills raising the age from 18 to 21 passed both the House of Delegates and state Senate with veto-proof margins, and are headed for the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam, a doctor whose first big political success was convincing the General Assembly in 2009 to ban smoking in restaurants. Northam was a senator at the time.

Legislators’ alarm over the explosive growth of vaping drove the effort — unprecedented in tobacco country — to make it harder to buy products containing nicotine.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the percentage of high school seniors who have used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days climbed to more than 20 percent last year from 11 percent in 2017.

The agency reported 6 percent of eighth-graders used e-cigarettes last year.

— The Virginian-Pilot

Tech billionaire Henry Nicholas is charged with drug trafficking in Las Vegas

Billionaire Henry T. Nicholas III was charged Wednesday in Las Vegas with multiple charges of narcotics trafficking six months after police discovered heroin and meth in the Broadcom co-founder’s massive suite at the Encore hotel.

Based on the quantities of the narcotics found inside the suite in August, the Clark County district attorney charged Nicholas, 59, and Ashley Fargo, a woman present in the suite with the billionaire, with five felony counts of trafficking and two of possession.

Court documents said investigators recovered 82.5 grams of meth and 4.24 grams of heroin.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police detained Nicholas and Fargo at about 10:40 p.m. Aug. 7 after hotel security called police to the room, according to Vegas Metro Officer Larry Hadfield, a department spokesman.

Hadfield said security reported finding contraband in the room. Nicholas and Fargo were arrested and booked on suspicion of trafficking heroin, cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine, Hadfield said.

David Chesnoff, Nicholas’ attorney, said Wednesday “the charges are only allegations and not facts.”

Nicholas is expected to make an appearance in a Las Vegas courtroom next month.

— Los Angeles Times

27 killed in suicide bombing targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

TEHRAN, Iran — At least 27 soldiers were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying members of Iran’s elite paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan.

At least 13 others were injured in the attack, the Revolutionary Guard said in a statement carried by the Tasnim news agency.

Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni separatist group, said it carried out the bombing. According to a report from the news agency IRNA, the group targeted the Revolutionary Guard personnel with a vehicle laden with explosives.

Jaish al-Adl is active in Sistan and Baluchestan, which lies on the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Islamist terrorist organization was founded in 2012 by members of the Jundallah, or “soldiers of god.” Both groups have repeatedly carried out attacks on military targets and civilians in recent years.

The leader of the Jundallah, Abdolmalek Rigi, was executed in Iran in 2010. Since then Iranian troops have repeatedly been targeted by the militants.

Iran considers both groups to be closely allied with the Islamic State terrorist network.

Sistan and Baluchestan is considered a notorious drug route. Clashes have occurred on a recurring basis between Revolutionary Guard troops and drug gangs in the border area.

The gang members have been classified as terrorists for their alleged connections to Islamic State.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif linked Wednesday’s attack to a controversial Middle East conference taking place in Warsaw, jointly organized by the United States and Poland, which Tehran has labelled an anti-Iran gathering.

“Is it no coincidence that Iran is hit by terror on the very day that #WarsawCircus begins?” Zarif wrote on Twitter, claiming that people on the streets of the Polish capital were cheering for the attackers and supporting them with the use of bots.

He offered no evidence to support his claims.

— dpa