Con­gres­sional visit gives a boost to de­ported U.S. vets

‘We can’t wait to get you guys home,’ says one rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By San­dra Dib­ble san­dra.dib­ble @sdunion­tri­bune.com Dib­ble writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

TI­JUANA — De­ported U.S. mil­i­tary veter­ans told mem­bers of a U.S. con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion vis­it­ing Ti­juana on Satur­day that they had paid dearly for their crimes and wanted to come home.

“I com­mit­ted a crime and I ac­cept it,” said Ed­uardo Agustin Gar­cia, 59, a for­mer U.S. Navy air­man who grew up in Ox­nard but was de­ported to Mex­ico in 1999 af­ter serv­ing a four-year sen­tence on a drug charge.

Gar­cia, who now works in a call cen­ter in Ti­juana, was among a dozen de­ported veter­ans who spoke briefly to mem­bers of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, all Democrats on the Con­gres­sional His­panic Cau­cus.

The de­ported veter­ans — some of whom served in Viet­nam, Iraq and Afghanistan — told of the pride they had felt in the U.S. armed ser­vices. They talked about how they missed their fam­i­lies in the United States and needed ac­cess to Veter­ans Af­fairs ser­vices. “I just want to go home,” they re­peat­edly said.

Held at the De­ported Veter­ans Sup­port House near the U.S. bor­der, the event aimed to bring vis­i­bil­ity to this is­sue af­fect­ing law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dents who served in the mil­i­tary and were hon­or­ably dis­charged, but then were con­victed of crimes. Be­cause they had not be­come U.S. cit­i­zens, they were de­ported af­ter serv­ing their sen­tences, re­turn­ing to a coun­try that many had left as chil­dren.

The del­e­ga­tion, led by His­panic Cau­cus Chair­woman Michelle Lu­jan Gr­isham of New Mex­ico and First Vice Chair Joaquin Cas­tro of Texas, included three Cal­i­for­ni­ans: Lou Cor­rea of Santa Ana, Nanette Bar­ragán of San Pe­dro and Juan Var­gas of San Diego. Also in the del­e­ga­tion were Raul Gri­jalva of Ari­zona and Vi­cente Gon­za­lez of Texas.

The vis­i­tors were given a tour of the cen­ter, which of­fers shel­ter and other sup­port ser­vices to de­ported veter­ans. They also watched a doc­u­men­tary that pro­filed some of the veter­ans and told of their strug­gles in Mex­ico.

About 60 de­ported veter­ans live in the Ti­juana area. In a re­port last year, the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union said there were at least 239 de­ported veter­ans in 34 coun­tries.

“This is an in­jus­tice. Th­ese veter­ans fought for the United States,” Cor­rea said. “They broke the law and paid for this mis­take. You shouldn’t have to pay twice for the same sin.”

Cas­tro pre­sented the veter­ans with a U.S. flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capi­tol. “We can’t wait to get you guys home,” he said.

The pres­ence of the leg­is­la­tors of­fered en­cour­age­ment to the group. Var­gas and Gri­jalva have sub­mit­ted pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that would al­low the vets to re­turn to the United States and would take mea­sures so that nonci­t­i­zen mem­bers of the mil­i­tary are in­formed of their op­por­tu­ni­ties to be­come U.S. cit­i­zens. Two other mem­bers of the del­e­ga­tion are also pre­par­ing to pro­pose leg­is­la­tion.

“This is an op­por­tu­nity for Don­ald Trump to do some­thing right,” Var­gas said. “We weren’t able to get any­where with the other ad­min­is­tra­tion, and we should have.”

Ale­jan­dro Ta­mayo San Diego Union-Tribune

A GROUP OF de­ported veter­ans out­side Ti­juana’s De­ported Veter­ans Sup­port House, where seven Con­gres­sional His­panic Cau­cus Democrats vis­ited Satur­day.

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