‘The only way he’s is coming home is in a body bag or in a coffin.’
Tribuno del Pueblo: What is the mission of Deported Veterans Support House?
Hector Barajas: Our mission, initially was to help with housing, but through the years we’ve become more of a resource center. We help the guys connect with VA [Veterans Administration] benefits. We connect them with attorneys. We do the advocacy part to push legislation.
TP: Were you in the army?
HB: Yes, I served in the U.S. Army from 1995 to 2001. I was a paratrooper. I served in the 82nd Airborne, considered a war-time veteran because of my service during 9/11.
I was a deported veteran. But I was able to get my citizenship about eight months ago. Now I can travel back and forth. I’m in Tijuana today because I chose to.
TP: Why were you deported?
HB: Most of my veterans, including myself, have a criminal conviction. When you get deported, you essentially have nothing. Some end up in poverty, homeless. They’re angry for being separated from their kids, their wives. But they’re resilient. Many overcome their situation and have moved on to start their lives again.
It’s very important to point out that the vets do serve their prison sentence and then they’re deported. I feel this is double jeopardy. I don’t think it’s right. It’s the law but it’s not morally right.
We have one guy that is getting buried today. He was deported I don’t know how many years, but the only way he’s coming home is in a body bag or in a coffin. Like any other veteran, they’re going to give his family an American flag and say thank you for his service. It’s an irony, it’s pretty sad. This is the way he’s going home. The law has to change.