“I want to emphasize that I am a firm believer in people being held accountable. Being a veteran
does not mean that you get a free pass and never have to pay the consequences for your actions.
the same time, it does not make sense to me to deport our veterans after they have completed
sentence and paid for their actions. For veterans, deportation is a double punishment.”
- Hector Barajas in his testimony before Congress
Hector Barajas-Varela came to the US with his family when he was 7, growing up in California. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1995 at age 17.
“I wanted to serve my adopted country, and I saw the service as a way to leave the environment in Compton and possibly to afford to go to college,” he said. He arrived in Fort Bragg and soon volunteered for Airborne School, serving in the 82nd Airborne from 1996 to 1999. “We were all Paratroopers, ready and willing to fight for our country and our values. We risked our lives on many days, performing dangerous air evacuations and dealing with multiple injuries as a result,” he said. He re-enlisted and served until his Honorable Discharge in 2001.
Hector could have applied for naturalization when he enlisted, but army recruiters led him to the mistaken impression that honorable service in the military automatically made him a citizen.
Hector struggled upon re-entry to civilian life and entered a plea of no contest in 2002 to a charge of shooting at an occupied vehicle. After spending two years in prison and nearly a year in detention, he was deported to Mexico. With his family in the U.S. and difficulties finding employment in Mexico, he re-entered the U.S. and was again deported in 2010 after being pulled over in a traffic stop.
In April 2017, Barajas was granted a full pardon in 2017 by Gov. Jerry Brown. He was granted U.S. citizenship in 2018, reuniting him with his daughter, parents, siblings, and extended family.
Hector is the founder and director of the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana.
Read more about Hector’s story:VICE News, “Hector Barajas Served in the American Military. He Was Deported Just the Same,” Sept. 11, 2019 ACLU of Southern California, “Hector Barrajas” Testimony of Mr. Hector Barrajas, Hearing on “The Impact of Current Immigration Policies on Service Members, Veterans, and their Families,” Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, Oct. 29, 2019