Served And Deported
By Luis E. Gutierrez
While sitting at the Army Wings in Ajijic, I´ve noticed the replica soldier sitting at the bar as you walk in, and it reminded me of all the young soldiers risking their lives for the great nation of the USA.
There are several veterans that gather together on Mexican borders with uniforms and US flags, letting the world know that they have been sent back to Mexico after serving in the Armed Forces, and it goes back since the Vietnam War up to this day, and now imagine being deported with no help whatsoever after serving in combat, like Mr. Francisco Lopez at 73 years of age who was drafted back in 1967 and served overseas.
He was deported in 2003 and has turned his house into a shelter to help out all young deported veterans where he is the director of the Deported Veterans Support House in what is known as the “Juarez Bunker.” His hopes of going back to the States are very slim but all he wants is medical care, a right for all who have served.
There are about 230 veterans who have served in combat that were promised US citizenship after serving; afterwards, they were honorably discharged from the service, and a few years later were deported, without any benefits or any help whatsoever.
There is also a group in the border town of Tijuana, and Mr. Lopez is also the man behind that place, helping those deported veterans, that have been approached by the local cartels and the sicarios because of their military experience, and knowledge of weapons and war tactics.
All these deported veterans now get together on Memorial Day on the borders of Tijuana and Juarez to honor the fallen soldiers as they respectfully salute the flag of the United States and the various branches of the Armed Forces to show the world and the people of the United States that they are here in Mexico left on their own, with no support or any help from our government.
Now, you may be asking yourselves as I do what have they done? What happened that these veterans have been kicked out of their country for which they have served putting their lives in danger, and were promised their US citizenship afterwards?
Yes, you might have the answer to this question, According to Mr. Trump, everyone that commits a felony will be deported, Mr. Francisco Lopez was arrested and deported in 2003. It’s a divisive issue. Navy veteran Juan Valadez of El Paso argues that everyone is not sympathetic about it, but as he reads the comments that deported veterans got what they deserve for breaking the law, he argues that they made a mistake, but are still veterans and have served the country.
Valadez enlisted and was deployed to the Gulf of Aden, then to the Persian Gulf. After that, he served two years in federal prison for drug conspiracy, but states that he is an immigrant and he has done more than most immigrants and US citizens have done. He signed up for the military voluntarily and deployed twice; therefore he served his time in prison and deserves a second chance.
On the other hand, Hector Barajas-Varela, after he served the country, was convicted for shooting at an occupied vehicle in the Los Angeles area and although no one was hurt, he spent 13 months in prison and one month on parole. He was deported back in 2004 and has been living at the Bunker in Tijuana, a haven for all the deported veterans. Barajas-Varela could have applied for his citizenship while in service, because he was a legal resident. He had mistakenly believed that serving in the military was guaranteed citizenship and applied while living in Mexico back in 2016, passing his English and civics test of his naturalization process.
Last April California Gov. Jerry D. Brown (D) pardoned Barajas-Varela for the crimes he had committed that led to his deportation, and granted him the opportunity to become a US citizen; he plans to live one more year at the Bunker in Tijuana, where he will continue helping other deported veterans. There is an untold number of veterans whom have been deported, who were entitled to become US citizens, but due to the failure of the federal government to help naturalize immigrants, because of their service in the US military.
Meanwhile Rep. Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona has introduced a bill called, The Veterans Visa and Protection Act of 2017 that prevents noncitizen service members and veterans from deportation unless they are convicted of violent crimes. Now as you’re reading this and before you judge, take in consideration that many of these veterans come back home with lots of mental issues and some of them don´t even know they have an issue. Alexander Heaton, director of the Veteran Action Coordination Committee, argues that the majority of these guys were deported because of crimes related to addiction, which is a veterans’ health issue. Many got in trouble while self-medicating because of things that had happened to them in the service. Congress doesn’t care because the see it as just another immigration issue.