Deported Veteran Becomes U.S. Citizen

Apr 15, 2018
Originally published on April 17, 2018 7:29 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

At least 300 U.S. military veterans who are not U.S. citizens have been deported after committing crimes. That's according to activist groups. But Friday, one was allowed to return. Jean Guerrero of KPBS Fronteras reports.

(CHEERING)

JEAN GUERRERO, BYLINE: Hector Barajas was greeted by dozens of supporters as he walked out of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in downtown San Diego. He had just been sworn in as a U.S. citizen.

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HECTOR BARAJAS: Dear Heavenly Father, I want to thank you today for this opportunity to be home with my family. And please continue to guide me so I can move forward and be a better man and...

GUERRERO: Barajas was allowed to return to the U.S. after he received a pardon from California Governor Jerry Brown. He was deported in 2004 for a shooting in LA. Barajas says he's not proud of his crime, but he's proud of his service and what he's doing today - leading a support house for deported veterans in Tijuana. He says he plans to continue that for another year.

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BARAJAS: My biggest dream is to see all my brothers and sisters go home to the country that they're willing to die for.

GUERRERO: Nathan Fletcher is a Marine Corps combat veteran and a candidate for county supervisor in San Diego. He led the effort to bring Barajas back.

NATHAN FLETCHER: You have a Trump administration that's driving a very dark and angry approach towards immigration. And here you have a California approach, and I think there is a stark contrast between the two.

GUERRERO: There are about 200 other deported veterans living in Tijuana, and Fletcher says he'll be campaigning for their return, as well. For NPR News, I'm Jean Guerrero in San Diego.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.