Deported U.S. Veterans Seek Repatriation
Hector Barajas, founder and director of the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana, hosted an interview Thursday, March 16, attended by a TV crew for UNIVISION and this reporter for Gringo Gazette.
McCail Smith, Jr., founder and administrator of American Veterans Coalition (AVCO), was the special guest at the invitation of Sr. Barajas, whose goals were not only to shed light on the struggle of deported veterans to be reunited with their families and friends, but also to coordinate with AVCO to ensure that those same vets receive the full VA benefits to which they are entitled under the law.
The Support House is funded strictly by donations, mostly from private citizens, but also from companies sympathetic to the cause. The latest company-sponsored fund-raiser was an event supported by the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company. Hector and his fellow deportees also conduct small fund-raising events themselves.
In addition to providing shelter and sustenance to the residents at the House, Hector’s organization is also very politically active. His group is seeking to have legislation enacted that recognizes that ALL veterans, upon enlisting, took an oath of allegiance to the United States of America, and that the oath they took is a LIFELONG commitment.
Further, they seek to have all persons who served in the military be recognized for the sacrifices they made, be repatriated and provided with educational programs to assist them in their efforts to find employment upon their return to the States.
They ask that citizens of the United States contact their local representatives and insist that those representatives support the Veterans Visa & Protection Act HR5695.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the reason for the deportation of most of the vets was a mixup in paperwork by the government itself; however, Hector says that the truth is, most of them were deported as a result of their involvement in the commission of criminal offences, most of which were misdemeanors. The complex moral issue arises when considering the possibility that the psychological stress of service in wartime activities (PTSD) could itself be the root cause of the crime committed.
Furthermore, perhaps it would better serve the country and the vet if the problem were resolved within the borders of the U.S., rather than resorting to the extreme punishment of deportation….a punishment which lasts a lifetime, and far exceeds the scope of the most of the crimes….especially considering that quite frequently, deportation results in the breakup of families.
There is also the possibility that a deported veteran may encounter hostility or loss of citizenship when returning to his own country of origin, especially if the United States had been engaged in conflict with that nation, or was engaged in campaigns which the leaders of his original homeland disapproved. Remember, many veterans served courageously in military campaigns on behalf of the United States, with the long-term goal of attaining citizenship there.
For example, Hector was finally able to obtain a Mexican identification card for a Mexican national who had served in the U.S. military, committed a crime, and, as a result, was deported. This individual had been living in Mexico for 10 years without a valid id!
Hector also recently found employment locally for another one of the vets in his care.
As for McCail Smith, Jr.’s participation in the activities of the Deported Veterans Support House (affectionately referred to as “the bunker”), he was there to enlighten the residents of the house as to the procedures necessary to obtain the full benefits they are entitled to. Mr Smith has been working as a veterans’ advocate for over two decades; his quest for knowledge of how the VA system works has been an odyssey spanning a period of 27 years, and he has, during that time, worked closely with VA directors in San Diego, as well as in Denver, CO.
He now attends weekly meetings in the VA offices in San Diego, where he is a frequent guest speaker. As the administrator of AVCO, he is willing to direct veterans to resources they may not have known they are entitled to. One such resource is the Federal Medical Program of the VA, which allows for veterans to receive their benefits anywhere in the world.
Membership in his program assures that if a vet has any unresolved issue with the VA, AVCO will act directly on his behalf.
During the interview, Mr. Smith enumerated the forms necessary for veterans to provide to the IRS and to the VA to ensure that all aspects of their service-related issues are documented. He also revealed ways to verify service-related injuries and/or illnesses that may not have been fully documented at the time of their occurrence.
McCail pointed out that under current VA regulations, a veteran’s injuries may be verified by any other service member who was a witness to the occurrence of those injuries.
The mission of the DVSH is to provide shelter, food and clothing to deported veterans, while actively seeking to have the citizenship and the rights of those veterans restored; DVSH continues its efforts by raising awareness through media events such as the one conducted before UNIVISION and Gringo Gazette, as well as through social media and local fundraising events.
The mission of AVCO is ensure that expat veterans, and, in fact, ALL veterans, are aware of, and receive, the full medical benefits, plus the maximum monthly pension remunerations, to which they are entitled under the law.
Together, these two dedicated veterans are working hard to guide others through the complex maze of forms, regulations, verification requirements, etc., that are required to obtain those benefits.
As of April, 2017, Hector has opened another branch of DVSH in Juarez!
DVSH: [email protected], USA phone 626.569.5492
MEX phone 664.522.8745
Mailing address: Att. Dermott Rodgers DVSH
4343 Ohio St #2
San Diego CA 92104
AVCO: [email protected]