Hector Barajas
  • Hector Barajas
  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

The Bunker of the Deported Veterans of America is located on 3rd street, near Parque Teniente Guerrero, on top of Baja Gym. Dark steps behind an iron door next to the gym's entrance lead you to two green doors and an open space. One of the green doors has a handwritten sign that reads “Bunker: Support House of the Deported Veterans of America. Director Hector Barajas.”

I knock on the door a couple times until I hear “Pasale.”

In the corner of a large open room, behind improvised desks, sit two veterans on their computers. A map of Mexico and a bunch of Army certificates decorate this corner they use as office space. The rest of the room has all the necessities for basic living. A loud fan barely helps allay the summer heat. A large American flag next to a smaller Mexican flag act as curtains for the sliding glass doors that lead to a balcony with no railing.

This is Spc. Hector Barajas’s home, a veteran who served in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne division from 1995 until 2001. Barajas shares his home with fellow deported veterans. Veterans can stay at the bunker while they find a better situation. Alex Caballero, a former Marine (1998-2007), is calling the place home for now.

“I see this house as the hub for all the deported veterans around the world,” says Barajas, “because this is where we've been doing a lot of the advocating, raising awareness, protests.... We are also working on an actual list of who are the deported veterans; these are numbers that the VA or Homeland Security doesn't have.”

Barajas estimates that there are between 3000 and 50,000 deported veterans around the world. He estimates that there’re more than 1000 in Baja California.

“The problem is that when you get deported, you think you are the only one. I talked to a guy that got deported to Jamaica, so I connected him to other veterans that have been deported there. We're forming virtual bunkers around the world. If someone gets deported in Tamaulipas, I help him connect with other veterans in the area. I tried to get these guys motivated, to raise awareness of their situation and where they are at and to get organized.”

Besides connecting veterans with one another, Barajas works to get benefits for them and to get them back home.

“Benefits are going to be easier to get; going back home is going to be more difficult. If they made me sign something that says I could go home and get none of my benefits, I would do it right now. If they tell me to jump from 100 airplanes, I'll serve a year in Iraq if I have to. I would do whatever it takes to go home.”

Like most deportees, a crime was committed for the system to notice them.

“A crime shouldn't take away your citizenship,” says Barajas. “I served a three-year prison term for a discharge of a firearm on to a vehicle…. I paid my debt to society.”

Alex Caballero claims he was unaware that he was part of a scam for Schwarzenegger's campaign as he presents me with a mountain of evidence and law jargon. Both, Caballero and Barajas call California their home. Barajas moved to Compton when he was seven years old; Caballero has lived all over California since he was two.

I ask them what comfort of home (besides family) they are missing and if there's something I can bring them next time I come back from San Diego.

“Family comes and visits the guys — for some is every week, others a month or so,” says Barajas. “You know what I miss, Church's Fried Chicken, KFC is not the same here. Church's hot and spicy is my favorite, the chicken over here doesn't taste the same at all.” — Hector misses a simple commodity, and since there's a Church's Chicken just across the border, I'll be bringing him some hot and spicy.

Alex in the other hand misses something that I cannot provide. “Just the freedom itself, the general feeling of being part of America, being around what you know, your family and friends.”

Alex also misses Mountain Dew and In-N-Out burger, an order I can handle.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader

Comments

eastlaker Aug. 17, 2014 @ 8:09 a.m.

I think it is a great idea to link up with all the other deported Vets--organize, educate each other, and as some problems are solved, those in the improved condition can perhaps continue helping all the others.

Perhaps it would also be a good idea for all those serving who are not citizens of the US, but intend one day to become citizens, to start that process as soon as possible, while military legal departments can assist. (Forgive me if I state the obvious).

0

AlexClarke Aug. 19, 2014 @ 6:31 a.m.

How is it a non citizen is allowed to serve in the US Military and conversely if an illegal alien is allowed to serve and has done so honorably he/she is not granted citizenship? I can't fathom why anyone would serve in the military of a country that would deport them. There is something very wrong with this.

0

danfogel Aug. 21, 2014 @ 10:45 a.m.

AlexClarke, You are aware that a non-U.S. Citizen and an illegal alien are 2 different things, right? A non-citizen can enlist in the military if he/she is a legal immigrant (with a green card), permanently residing in the United States. Federal law prohibits non-citizens from becoming commission or warrant officers and the DOD policy prohibits granting security clearances to non-U.S. Citizens, otherwise, I believe that the rest of the requirements are the same as for a citizen. No one is granted citizenship simply because they served in the military. They do receive special consideration as active-duty or recently discharged personnel, but it's not a serve in the military and get automatic citizenship deal. This guy's problem is simple. He said “A crime shouldn't take away your citizenship.” His problem is that when in the country on a green card he can get deported for committing certain crimes, on of which just happens to be, wait for it.... firearms offenses! So can aggravated felonies, espionage, failure to register as a sex offender, being a drug addict or drug abuser, conviction of any drug offense other than possession of marijuana for personal recreational use,committing domestic violence or child abuse, stalking or violating a protection order. So yeah, a three-year prison term for a discharge of a firearm on to a vehicle can get you deported. You can't fathom why "anyone would serve in the military of a country that would deport them"? I can't fathom why anyone wanting to stay in this country and become a citizen would commit a firearms violation like he did, or any other offense which could get him deported. The only thing "very wrong with this' is this guy thinks he should get a break because he was in the military. WRONG. Let me ask you this. If, when he discharged that firearm on to a vehicle, he had hit someone, would you still think "There is something very wrong with this" ?

1

joesolo Oct. 2, 2014 @ 11:02 p.m.

Danfogel, I am curious as to how you know so much about what it takes to get deported and about immigration and citizenship, I also wonder if you ever served your county. Because it doesn’t sound like you realize the sacrifice it takes to defend your country. Nor the danger that we are put into defending your country. I say this because you are saying “The only thing "very wrong with this' is this guy thinks he should get a break because he was in the military.” It sounds like you think that he didn’t earn the right to at least be treated like the people that he was willing to die for in order to defend, them, their country and their way of life. People commit crimes. And people pay for those crimes. He did not ask to not pay for that crime. That would be asking for a break. No one here needs a lesson on how the law reads, we know what the law “is” what people here are saying is that it si wrong and needs to be changed, because to many non citizens have laid there life down defending the country they loved and believed they were becoming a national of when thy took that oath and then served it, for no one to care about this injustice. I will never understand why a person that takes an oath to defend the constitution of the United States, but never does anything to actually prove that he or she would defend this country, can commit any crime or crimes short of treason, and not get deported. Yet a person that makes practically the same oath, and faithfully serves it, by putting his life on the line, cant even have one strike before being out. In fact when he goes to an immigration hearing he did not even “earn” the right to have the immigration judge to consider his military record when deciding whether to deport, him or her. This shows that too many people pay a lot of lip service as to the gratitude towards the people that defend this country, but they obviously care more about a piece of paper which says that someone has become a citizen, than the sacrifice, love of county and valor that a person shows, when serving this country.
Semper Fi

0

danfogel Oct. 3, 2014 @ 10:51 a.m.

Joesolo, I assume that you are or were a United States Marine, so thank you for your service. No, I have never served in any branch of the military. Both of my grandfathers did, my father did as did my father-in-law. My uncle, my father’s brother, did as well. He was a Navy pilot. He was shot down in 1970 and his name is on the West Wall. Also, the son of one of my closest friends did 3 tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He now works as a civilian for the DOD at the Pentagon. Unless you were to see him in shorts, you couldn’t tell he has a prosthetic leg. So yes, I realize the danger and the sacrifice it takes to defend our country How do I know so much about what it takes to get deported and about immigration and citizenship? Don’t you know? It happens to be spelled out pretty well by USCIS. As for citizenship status and enlistment in the military, you do know what BEERs are, right? It was pretty easy to look them up on any of the service websites. My comment was to point out to the previous poster that that a non-U.S. Citizen and an illegal alien are 2 different things, and while a non-citizen CAN serve, an illegal alien CANNOT and it wasn’t very hard to find the correct info. At least it wasn’t hard for me. I hear what you are saying, but you are incorrect about one thing. While the law may indeed need to be changed, he did break the law as it stands: discharge of a firearm on to a vehicle. And I’ll stand by my previous comment. I can't fathom why anyone wanting to stay in this country and become/retain citizenship would commit a firearms violation like he did, or any other offense which could get him deported. It’s that simple. You were given rules to follow as a Marine and if you didn’t follow them, you knew you would have to suffer the consequences. This guy had rules to follow to gain and retain his citizenship, among them being to not commit a firearms offense or any of the other I listed. He didn’t follow them. As you said, people commit crimes and people pay for those crimes. Part of that payment was deportation. What if, when he discharged that firearm on to a vehicle, he had killed someone, maybe someone you knew. Would you still think he deserved to keep his citizenship? I don’t want anyone who came here, got their citizenship and committed one of those offenses, here, regardless of whether or not they served in the military. Do you want them in your neighborhood, the drug dealers, sex offenders, child abusers, wife beaters, etc? Because I don’t. All of the offenses listed are grounds for deportation, meaning they made him deportable. It was up to the judge to make the decision and he obviously felt the crime was seriously enough to warrant deportation. You can’t make an exception just because you don’t like the law as it is written.

1

Winwizard Oct. 5, 2014 @ 12:31 a.m.

Danfogle, The rhetorical question "did you serve?" is not an invitation to sit at the table where men are talking. Its rather like when someone asks "do you know what you are talking about?" It means shut your cake eater and pay attention or ante up.

Yours, Joe

0

jnojr Oct. 15, 2014 @ 1:27 p.m.

Oh, slag off, you self-righteous, pompous buffoon. There is no requirement for anyone to have joined the military in order to be permitted an opinion. If you served, you sure as heck didn't learn anything about respect, manners, or what America is all about. If you want a seat at the table where men are talking, how about starting by using your name like Dan did?

0

joesolo Oct. 6, 2014 @ 9:40 p.m.

Danfogel, again you are missing the point, | understand that you and many people like you hate people that commit crimes, and to a certain extent so do I. Maybe people need to be shot on the spot for jaywalking. Everybody has a different opinion of what the proper punishment is for each crime. but my point is that just like you people deserve a second chance, I know you probably believe in your heart that you will never commit a crime in your life. but if you did or your brother did or your father did or your mother did, should you also get banished to an island somewhere so that nobody could ever be hurt by them again as they do in Russia when they send people to Siberia. but this is America, I thought we were better than that. That is why I was willing to die for your country,. I do agree with you that it makes no sense at all to commit a crime if you know you can get deported. But sometimes there are things and circumstances in which a person does something that he would never otherwise do. That person may have done everything right all of his life, model citizen (or model Legal immigrant in my case) model husband, model parent, model worker, Model Marine . But if that person screws up one time the immigration judge cannot take any of that into consideration. So no it was not up to the Judge to make the decision to deport him, in fact the judge that heard my case said that she had no choice but to deport me. Because the law did not let her take that into consideration. Thanks to a series of laws that have taken most of the decision making away from the judges (new world order). As i stated in the beginning you missed the point. People who recite an oath and become citizens can commit any crime other than treason and not lose their citizenship. While those of us who not only recited the oath but also proved that we meant it, don’t even get proper due process at our hearing. much less get the chance redeem ourselves. I completely agree that a lot of people deserve to get deported for the crimes thy commit, but also believe that when the country accepts people to serve the country, they should at least treat them as they do a person that does nothing good for this country other than be borne here or recite an oath.
Since you do know of the danger and consequences of defending your country do you think that it would be right for any of those people you mentioned that did risk and even lost life or limb, should be treated in anyway less than any of you that enjoy every opportunity that your freedom gives you, even though you never did anything to deserve the sacrifice that they made for you. I still feel that even though you know of people that made the sacrifice, you will never really understand it until you step up to the plate. Good luck, I hope you are successful in living your whole life without committing any sins so you don’t have to burn in hell. Since that seems to be your philosophy.

0

Sign in to comment

Join our
newsletter list

Enter to win $25 at Broken Yolk Cafe

Each newsletter subscription
means another chance to win!

Close