By Matt Saintsing
For veterans deported to Mexico, the Deported Veterans Support House, or “the bunker,” is crucial to surviving.
Food, clothing, and shelter are offered to veterans of the U.S. military who have been convicted of crimes following their military service, and subsequently deported.
Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), along with several of her colleagues, visited “the Bunker” in Tijuana, Mexico on Monday to meet with veterans who have recently been deported. Hector Barajas, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and a constituent of Barragán’s, started the Support House to aid veterans like him.
Barajas is now going through the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, following a pardon he received.
“I am grateful to Governor Jerry Brown for issuing Hector a pardon. I am working to do everything in my power to help Hector rightfully receive his U.S. citizenship,” Barragán said in a statement.
“Anyone who fights for the freedom of our country should be granted citizenship. Period. Along with my colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I will continue to fight for our veterans and to make sure they know they are just as American as their brothers and sisters in uniform.”
And while serving in the U.S. military does not automatically grant citizenship, those who complete the required paperwork and meet timelines can become citizens.
In many cases, service members leave the military never becoming Americans because they have assumed that serving is all that is required.
When some veterans, like Barajas, commit a crime, they serve their time in the criminal justice system. When they are released from jail or prison, they are not released back into the population like others are, they instead face deportation.
Currently, there are more than 10,000 non-citizens serving on active duty in the U.S. military, with another 11,000 serving in the reserves.