A deported veteran will be granted American citizenship after almost a decade and a half of struggle.
Hector Barajas, 40, was deported to Mexico 14 years ago, after having lived in the United States since the age of 7. Thanks in part to California Governor Jerry Brown’s decision last year to pardon the 2002 criminal offense, Barajas will be able to return to the land he fought for — and the daughter he was forced to leave behind.
Barajas, a veteran who earned a number of accolades while serving in the Army from 1995 to 2001, was deported in 2004, after serving two years in prison for illegal discharge of a firearm. He returned to the United States and was deported again in 2010, the Associated Press reports, after being stopped by police for a traffic violation.
Barajas founded the Deported Veterans Support House in 2013, a safehouse for deported veterans in Tijuana, Mexico. As CNN reports, Barajas has devoted his life to advocating for deported veterans, and intends to continue doing so after he becomes a U.S. citizen. He plans to commute to Tijuana from the Los Angeles area for at least a year.
Now, Barajas can return legally to the country he’d called home for so long. Barajas has been instructed by the government to attend a naturalization ceremony on April 13 in San Diego, his lawyers confirmed to AP. Barajas had been waiting for a decision since passing the English and civic portions of his naturalization requirements in 2016, ABC News reports, and filing a lawsuit in 2017 to compel officials to make a decision.
“I still can’t believe it,” Barajas said. “I’m just excited I’ll be able to be home with my family.”
(Hector Barajas, a deported veteran stands for a portrait at the Deported Veterans Support House on March 31, 2017, in Tijuana, northwestern Mexico. Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images)