Skip to main content

Deported US Veterans In Tijuana Prepare To Meet With Members of Congress

Deported veterans and supporters gather in Tijuana in this undated photo.

Credit: Hector Barajas

Above: Deported veterans and supporters gather in Tijuana in this undated photo.

The purpose of the meeting, which will take place Saturday, is to discuss details of a bill that could allow some of the deported veterans return to the United States.

A group of deported veterans in Tijuana spent Memorial Day preparing for an important meeting with seven members of Congress.

The purpose of the meeting, which will take place Saturday, is to discuss details of a bill that could allow some of the deported veterans return to the United States.

Known as the Veterans Visas and Protection Act, it would also help veterans without legal status in the U.S. become lawful residents.

More than 200 veterans have been deported from the U.S., according to a 2016 report from the American Civil Liberties Union. Many were unaware they were not automatically granted citizenship after their service and, as as a result, did not apply.

The report also states about 24,000 non-citizens were serving in the military in 2012, mostly permanent residents from the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica, South Korea and the Dominican Republic.

One deported veteran, Hector Barajas, served nearly six years in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division before he was honorably discharged. He was deported in 2004 after spending some time in prison for firing a gun from his vehicle.

Photo credit: Hector Barajas

Hector Barajas poses for a photo while serving in the U.S. Army in this undated photo.

“You do feel rejected, you feel like they didn’t value your service. But at the end of the day I also take responsibility for the situation that got me here. But I think I’ve paid my dues. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in trouble," Barajas said.

Barajas received a pardon for his crimes from Gov. Jerry Brown last month and said he is hopeful he is going to get a chance to return to the U.S., regardless of what happens to the bill. His daughter lives in Los Angeles.

After he was deported, Barajas launched the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana, known as "The Bunker." His group has helped numerous deported veterans get access to pensions and health care in the U.S.

The meeting between members of Congress and deported veterans in Tijuana will take place at "The Bunker."

“For them to come out here and want to meet us is great," Barajas said. "It reminds us we’re still valued, people still care, and people who can make these changes still care and they want to do something about it."

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.