A deported U.S. military veteran that became the voice for hundreds of deported U.S. military veterans around the world returned to the nation he served in April and finally became a citizen. Hector Barajas began raising awareness about deported veterans after he was deported from the United States. In 2013, he founded the Deported Veterans Support House, known as “the bunker,” in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Barajas applied for citizenship with the aid from a coalition of supporters called Honorably Discharged, Dishonorably Deported that launched in 2016. Barajas was pardoned by Governor Jerry Brown for the offense that got him deported and he was approved this March. Barajas stated the following after his oath ceremony,

I believe in this country. I believe we can make things right. I want to apologize once more for what got me deported. I’m not proud of it, but I am proud of what I have done since then.

Barajas has been pushing for years for coverage of the issue of deported veterans, which he believes is unjust. He first came to the United States in 1984 when he was seven years old, and he grew up as a green card holder. After high school, he joined the Army and was part of the 82nd Airborne Division from 1995 to 2001. In 2002, he took a plea deal for a charge of shooting at an occupied car. Because of that conviction, the government took away his green card and deported him in 2004 after he finished a prison sentence. Barajas believes he has paid dearly for that decision and has missed many moments in his daughter’s childhood.

The American Civil Liberties Union has documented at least 239 cases of deported veterans living in 34 countries. Supporters of the cause of deported veterans say that the military doesn’t do enough to help members naturalize and that many wrongly believe they become citizens when they enlist. However, critics of the movement to bring back deported veterans say that green card holders have to respect U.S. laws as part of the contract of having the visas. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Barajas will continue to run the bunker for another year, and he will hand off the program to Joaquin Aviles, a Marine Corps veteran who was deported in 2001 for a firearm possession conviction. We will have to wait and see if more deported veterans are able to come back to the United States and gain citizenship.

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