A Farewell to Arms, and the United States: Deported veterans are stranded in Mexico, far from the country they served
ector Barajas, a former paratrooper in the U.S. Army, lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Rosarito Beach, a seaside Mexican village 15 miles south of the border. Barajas, 36, has lived near Rosarito since 2009, usually with another deported veteran living in his second bedroom or on his couch. He is a leading advocate against the deportation of veterans, which has become a more prevalent concern for members of our armed forces in recent years, and his home has become the cause’s unofficial headquarters. Barajas’ current houseguest, Fabian Rebolledo, received a Purple Heart for his service in Kosovo. When Rebolledo, 37, was deported to Tijuana earlier this year, he called Barajas almost immediately.
Today, Barajas will designate his apartment a safe house for deported military veterans. The announcement and press conference will bring no obvious, direct changes: the apartment can still only accommodate six to eight people (if you include floor space) and Barajas has received no outside donations or special tax status. “We got to help each other out because no one else wants to help us out,” Barajas said of his project.
Estimates for the total number of deported veterans range from several hundred to several thousand. The Walter-McCarran Act of 1952 established the basis of our current deportation procedures, allowing for the deportation of long-term legal residents—including veterans—who committed a crime. In the 1990s, a series of laws broadened the number of deportable offenses to include nonviolent drug crimes and theft.