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Deported Veterans Find a Home Across the Border
The Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana, Mexico provides food, shelter, and clothing for deported veterans.
Deported U.S. Army veteran Hector Barajas looks out the front door of the Deported Veterans Support House, also known as "The Bunker," on July 3, 2017 in Tijuana, Mexico. Barajas, a legal U.S. resident who served more than five years in the military and was honorably discharged, founded and now runs the House. In addition to providing food, shelter, and clothing for deported veterans, he advocates for political legislation that would prohibit future deportations of veterans.
There are an estimated 11,000 non-citizens serving in the U.S. military, and most will be naturalized during or following their service. Those who leave the military early or who are convicted of a crime after serving can be deported. Veterans who serve the military as green card holders, not citizens, can be deported after committing certain crimes – including some minor offenses such as possession of marijuana and some more serious crimes such as murder and rape.
Deported U.S. Marine Corp veteran Alex Gomez rests on a cot at the House.
Barajas sorts through old family photos at the House.
Barajas, a legal U.S. resident, left the Army with an honorable discharge in 2001. After serving for five years, he struggled to adjust to life after the military. A few months after leaving the military, he was arrested and charged with discharging a firearm from a vehicle. No one was hurt, but the crime made him deportable. Barajas pleaded guilty and after two years in jail, he was deported to Mexico.
People stand by the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Playas de Tijuana during a Fourth of July gathering on the beach.
Gomez hangs a flag on the border fence.