Three deported California veterans received full pardons from California Gov. Jerry Brown in a historic move that received accolades from the Honorably Discharged, Dishonorably Deported coalition.
It’s the first time a governor has recognized and taken action to help deported veterans, said a coalition representative. The veterans now have a chance to eventually return to the country they took an oath to defend with these historic pardons.
“Governor Brown’s historic pardons give hope to hundreds of deported veterans still fighting to return to the nation they honorably served,” coalition chair and Marine Corps combat veteran Nathan Fletcher said in a statement.
Formal requests for the pardons were issued by the coalition earlier this year, according to a representative.
“None of them would have been deported had the promise of citizenship been upheld by our government,” said Fletcher.
— Nathan Fletcher (@nathanfletcher) April 15, 2017
“The crimes they committed are only deportable offenses due to the draconian immigration laws passed in the 1990s,” said Fletcher.
A former paratrooper, Hector Barajas, who served with the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Storm, was granted a pardon.
Barajas said, “There are no words to describe the joy I feel today. I thank God for the grace of Governor Jerry Brown and am eternally grateful to all of those who advocated on my behalf.”
Once Barajas was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army he struggled to adapt to civilian life. This led to substance abuse and a conviction for being in a car when a firearm was discharged, according to the coalition. He served two years in prison before being turned over to ICE and deported to Mexico.
“I have dreamed every day of returning to the country I love,” said Barajas, in a statement.
An coalition representative says Barajas has dedicated his life to helping other deported veterans, by opening The Deported Veterans Support House (aka “The Bunker”) in Tijuana.
The Bunker has provided shelter and vital services to deported veterans, according to the coalition. Barajas is eager to be reunited with his daughter who he says has multiple sclerosis and needs him.
Erasmo Apodaca was an honorably discharged U.S. Marine who was convicted of burglary for breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s house. After serving his sentenced, he was deported, according to the coalition.
He fought alongside trained firemen in a special program for non-violent criminals while incarcerated and only served one year in prison for his good behavior. Erasmo has never given up hope that he may eventually be reunited with his two young children who were left without a father.
Marco Antonio Chavez Medina was brought to the U.S. when he was just one year old, according to the coalition. He served honorably for four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, but was convicted of animal cruelty in 1998.
He was released from his two-year prison sentence after fifteen months for good behavior. Once an immigration judge deemed his conviction to be an “aggravated felony” in 2002, Medina was deported to Mexico.
Medina hopes to repair his relationship with his sons. His wife and kids moved to Iowa after their life in Mexico proved too difficult for his family.
In July 2016, the ACLU California released a report, “Discharged, then Discarded,” which documented the plight of deported U.S. veterans.
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