Veteran of the Year was Deported from the Country He Served

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Assemblywoman Honors Hector Barajas Varela, a Decorated U.S. Army Soldier Who Founded a Refuge for U.S. Military Veterans Who Were Deported Following Their Service to the United States

Veteran of the YearSACRAMENTO – California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) announced today she is honoring deported U.S. Army veteran Hector Barajas Varela of Tijuana as Assembly District 80’s Veteran of the Year.

Barajas, who could not attend the annual ceremony at the State Capitol because of his deportation, is the Director and Founder of the Deported Veterans Support House, a shelter in Tijuana known as “The Bunker” that he started in 2012 to help other deported Veterans on “their path to self-sufficiency by providing assistance in the realms of food, clothing, and shelter as they adjust to life in their new country of residence.”

“It’s horribly unfortunate that our Veteran of the Year can’t join me in the Capitol for this honor,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. “We must do everything in our power to bring back every single man and woman who can no longer live in the country they served.”

Barajas moved to the United States from Mexico with his family at age 7 and grew up in Compton and became a Legal Permanent Resident at age 15. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 17 and served two stints. Hector began basic training at age 18 and went on to serve in the 82nd Airborne as a U.S. Army paratrooper, where he regularly jumped out of airplanes. During his six years of service, Barajas received numerous accolades and awards, including a Humanitarian Service Medal and Army Good Conduct Medal. After his two stints, Barajas was honorably discharged as an E4 Specialist. Upon his discharge from the U.S. Army, Barajas was convicted of a gun-related crime in 2003, which led to his deportation.

On April 15, 2017, Barajas was one of three deported military veterans that was pardoned from his 2003 conviction by Gov. Jerry Brown. He has been a strident advocate for the rights of deported military veterans, including support for Assembly Bill 386 that was authored by Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher this year to provide legal assistance to deported veterans who are seeking immigration services that could result in their return to the United States as well as relief from any underlying criminal convictions. At the urging of the Assemblywoman and Barajas, the 2017-18 California state budget passed by the Legislature last week makes deported veterans with ties to California eligible to apply for the $45 million available for immigration services.

For more information on Assembly Bill 386 or Mr. Barajas or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher, contact Evan McLaughlin at (916) 319-2080 or (619) 850-2790.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, and Vice Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

CONTACT: Evan McLaughlin, Office: (916) 319-2080 / Cell: (619) 850-2790