Deported Veteran Comes Home

Article on Latino Rebels

By Juan Diego Ramirez

In a small room full of cameras, an American flag pinned on the wall becomes the backdrop of every shot. Hector Barajas sits on a leather couch placed against that wall. He is about to read an immigration decision that could decide his future to either return to the U.S. or stay in Mexico. Barajas is part of an ever-growing population of US deportees with one exception—he is a military veteran. 

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“Deported veterans are people who served in the armed forces all the way from the Vietnam War era to the guys who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan” says Barajas, Founder and Director of the Deported Veterans Support House (DVSH)—an organization set to provide assistance to U.S. Military serviceman who have been deported to Mexico in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico.

“The most important thing that we do is housing. We make sure they get somewhere to sleep until they get their life situated” Barajas says about deported veterans. The recourses center also helps the deported veterans obtain their Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, compensation pensions, legal services, physical, and mental health resources.

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There are two “Bunkers”—as the DVSH centers are commonly called—in Mexico, but the organization is planning to open more “Bunkers” wherever there are large populations of deported veterans around the world. Barajas is currently in talks with deported veterans in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, where he will be assisting other veterans to open their own “Bunker” in the near future. He has identified 350 deported Veterans around the world and 60 deported veterans in Tijuana and Juarez, Mexico—the second location of the Mexican “Bunkers”.

According to Barajas, DVSH members are made of once legal residents and undocumented Vietnam War Veterans that were drafted during the Vietnam War, including himself.

Barajas came to the U.S. at the age of 7 years old and settled in Compton, California with his family. As a teenager, Barajas was granted a permanent residency card. Right after turning 17 years old he enlisted in the military and at 18 years old Barajas joined the Army and served with the 82nd Airborne Division.  He served the military for two terms, from 1995 to 2001. He became a wartime veteran due to his services from the aftermath of 9/11.

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After his military service, Barajas served a 2-year prison sentence for unlawfully discharging a firearm in 2001. In 2004 Barajas was deported back to Mexico for the first time. He returned to the U.S. and was deported a second time in 2010

“I went through the whole deportation proceeding and when I was getting deported I thought I was the only person that was going through this and then over the years through my advocacy work I’ve identified hundreds of veterans being deported around the world,” says Barajas when talking about why he got involved with the organization.  “I feel committed and somebody needs to do something about it.” 

After serving a prison sentence Barajas was picked up by immigration. “I thought I was going to be released initially,” says Barajas. He was eventually put in deportation proceedings and was sent from California to Eloy—an Immigration detention center in Arizona. That’s when he was able to let his family know he was being deported. “I thought that as soon as they would find out I was a veteran I was going to be released but being a veteran carries no weight on being deported under the current laws”

According to a 2017 Washington Post article, “500,000 foreign-born U.S. veterans lived in the country in 2016. Since October 2001, more than 100,000 military members have become naturalized citizens”. They credited these numbers to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Migration Policy Institute.

There is a misconception that veterans become US citizens automatically after their military services according to Barajas. “We have been drafting Undocumented Immigrants since the Civil war” noted Barajas. While there is a path to citizenship in the military, Barajas points to the lack of information from the military about such proceedings and initiative from individuals who qualify for these benefits. “Sometimes you get deployed to Afghanistan and the last thing on your mind is trying to figure out your citizenship while you are trying to survive and stay alive,” comments Barajas. “It’s kind of hard to be thinking about your N-400—the application for US citizenship—while dodging bullets.”

Many of the deported veterans Barajas helps fell under the wrong assumption that they too would not be deported due to their military service, according to Barajas. “Some thought that they were citizens because of their recruiters,” says Barajas. “So what happens when you come home from the military if you go through some rough time? Not only do you serve a prison sentence, but then you are picked by immigration,” says Barajas.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 11 to 20% of veterans will suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

“I see a lot of mental health issues, not just because of deportation but because of the military service, but deportation also affects you as well,” says Barajas.

Back at the Tijuana “Bunker” Barajas opens a blue a folder that contains his U.S. immigration decision. Stumbling his words he shouts, “Hallelujah! Mom, I am coming home mom!”. He then turns to other deported veterans in the room and says, “ I am not stopping for any of you guys, you guys know my commitment.”

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Barajas has become the first Deported veteran with Mexican nationality to come back to the U.S. as a Citizen. He is to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen on April 13 in San Diego, California.

EP35: PUCHICA IN THE MIDWEST (W/ VICTOR INTERIANO & SITA KURATOMI BHAUMIK

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Soleil and Zahir meet in the Midwest—sort of. They catch up on their adventures as Soleil prepares to depart to Mexico once again.

In this episode, we speak with Victor Interiano, creator of Dichos de un bicho, a blog centered on issues that concern Central Americans and Latinidad. Interiano is also the creator of a left-of-center charismatic cartoon cat named Puchica Puchin. 

We also run a story on Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik that was previously published on Raw Material, an arts and culture podcast by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is a conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration that is based in Oakland, California.
 
Produced by Juan Ramirez. Music by AF the Naysayer and Blue Dot Sessions. Additional production is by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Geraldine Ah-Sue with music from Podington Bear (source: free music archive)

LINKS DU JOUR

 

Affect Conference

FEEDING SOCIAL JUSTICE TO THE MASSES

https://affectconf.com/speakers/#juan

Applying critical analysis to food is essential to understanding and framing “big picture” ideas about white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy. So many people feel gaslighted by mainstream food media, which paints their cultures/experiences as “other” and in need of interpretation by tour guides. We wanted to create an accessible starting point for the difficult but important conversations about the discourse that affects our daily lives, and thus Racist Sandwich was born.

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E34: QUEERING AND MELANATING THE COMIC WORLD (W/ TANEKA STOTTS)

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When was the last time you saw yourself reflected in the art that you love? For Portland’s Taneka Stotts, comic writer and editor, the answer was never. So she co-founded Beyond Press, a small-scale publisher that releases comic books featuring queer-identified and minority artists. In today’s episode, Soleil talks with Taneka about representation, Sonic the Hedgehog, and milkshakes.

 

In our intro, Juan and Soleil discuss the Portland Taco Festival fiasco and answer some listener questions.

Produced by Juan Ramirez. Music by AF the Naysayer and Blue Dot Sessions.

LINKS DU JOUR

Beyond Press

Love Circuits, Taneka’s webcomic

The milkshake incident

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E28: THE CACAHUATE DIARIES (W/ DANIELA PEREZ AND SOLEIL HO)

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Katherine Quince interviews Daniela Perez—a mentor gardener based in Portland, Oregon—and chat about the successes and failures of gardening. Also, Soleil sits down and talks to us about what is like to open a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta over an awesome audio diary. Be sure to check out her recently published essay, where Juangets reminded of an old childhood snack—cacahuates!

Produced by Juan Ramirez. Music by AF the Naysayer and Blue Dot Sessions. Additional music by Nujabes, Tupac, and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

LINKS DU JOUR

E27: PLANTING SEEDS AMONG CONCRETE (W/ WANDA STEWART)

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We celebrate our first anniversary by having guest producer Cristina Kim takes us to Oakland, Ca to talk with Wanda Stewart on the joys and challenges of teaching gardening and community farming at Hoover Elementary. Wanda welcomes us into her classroom and opens up about her goal to dismantle the negative connotations many of her students and their parents– especially from the African American community–have with getting dirty and growing food.  In a time where it’s hard to know how to best be active and engaged, she reminds us that the way forward may be as simple as working like ants.Produced by Juan Ramirez and Cristina Kim. Music by AF the Naysayer and Blue Dot Sessions.

LINKS DU JOUR

Original Post

 

I’ve Joined The Racist Sandwich Podcast Team!

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It was bound to happen someday. Our killer founding producer and editor, Alan Montecillo, is leaving us (and Portland) to work as a producer on the 21st, a news and culture talk show from Illinois Public Media. We always knew his talents and Hufflepuffiness would take him somewhere great, and we’re so excited to watch his career progress from afar. Best of luck, Alan!

In this episode, we say goodbye to Alan and introduce our new producer and editor, Juan Ramirez. Like Alan, Juan is an Oregon Public Broadcasting alum, and we first encountered his work through a piece he did for Think Out Loud. Called, “DACA Now: Returning To Mexico For The First Time In 17 Years,” the gorgeous segment features Juan recalling a visit to his birthplace in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, to visit his relatives and ailing father. All of this is colored by the fact that Juan is a DACA grantee: an undocumented immigrant granted administrative relief from deportation because he was brought to the US as a child. Think Out Loud was generous enough to allow us to replay that segment on our show, and we think you’ll love it just like we did.

One more thing: this didn’t make it into the episode, but we’re excited to announce that we’ve been nominated for a Digital Media: Culinary Audio Series Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP)! Woohoo!