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Deported Veterans in Tijuana and Elsewhere Seek Better Access to Their US Benefits

Alejandra Molina - The Press-Enterprise
go to original
November 11, 2017

A group of US military veterans gather at place called "The Bunker" to swap stories and hope for their return to the country they served (CNN)

Update: Deported Veterans Protest in Mexico on US Veterans Day (Al Jazeera)

Hector Barajas runs a disciplined operation inside what’s referred to as “The Bunker,” where deported U.S. veterans like himself can seek shelter or assistance accessing their benefits.

The front office floors are swept before 9 a.m. The small dining area, known as the mess hall, is spotless. A whiteboard listing events, legislation, and websites keeps veterans updated on resources available to them.

Barajas, 40, founded the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana in 2013, three years after being deported. He houses veterans there and helps them apply for benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

His organization advocates for legislation prohibiting the deportation of U.S. veterans, but, while the issue persists, it seeks to improve the well-being of veterans not only in Tijuana but in other countries where they are deported.

“If you don’t want to bring home deported veterans, at least take care of them,” said Barajas, who lived in Compton and had served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division before being honorably discharged in 2001. “Make sure they get what they rightly deserve. There’s no law that says we can’t get VA benefits.”

Most Americans are unaware of the situation.

There are at least 239 deported veterans from about 34 countries, according to a July 2016 report by the American Civil Liberties Union of California.

Other estimates put the number of deported veterans at about 1,400.

Veterans who are not U.S. citizens can be deported for criminal convictions. Some veterans are not fully aware of the process they need to go through to become citizens after serving in the military. A common assumption is that citizenship is automatic.

Deportation leads to lack of access to necessary VA medical benefits that all veterans are entitled to regardless of immigration status, the ACLU said in the report.

Taking care of veterans should be a no-brainer, said Barajas, who spent time in prison for shooting at a vehicle.

Read the rest at The Press-Enterprise

Related: Trump and DACA: Don’t Forget About Immigrant Veterans Being Deported (Newsweek)

Related: These Politicians Want to Stop the Deportation of Veterans (Newsy)

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