A U.S. military veteran deported to his home country of Mexico 13 years ago after serving time for a conviction received a full pardon Saturday from California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Hector Barajas was born in Mexico’s Zacatecas state and crossed the border illegally into the United States at age 7. After growing up in the U.S., he served in the U.S. Army from 1995 to 2001 in the 82nd Airborne Division.
After an honorable discharge from the Army, Barajas had a difficult time adapting to civilian life. He developed a substance abuse problem. He was in a car when a firearm was discharged and was convicted for the crime of shooting at an inhabited vehicle.
In early July 2002, Barajas was sentenced in the Superior Court of the State of California, in the County of Los Angeles, for the crime. Barajas served just over one year in prison and the same amount of time on parole. He was released on Sept. 2, 2004, after completing his sentence.
Upon his release, Barajas was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Nogales, in the Mexican state of Sonora.
In an interview with the Associated Press last month, Barajas described feeling “lost” that moment he found himself back in Mexico. Unsure of how to make a living, the military veteran crossed back into the U.S. six months later.
He was deported again in 2010.
At that point, he moved to Tijuana and founded a place called the Deported Veterans Support House – or “The Bunker” – a place where many deported veterans just like Barajas can get a little bit of help adjusting to their new life as deportees. There, Barajas puts veterans in touch with lawyers, psychologist and job counseling programs.
"I think the hardest part is being separated from their families and their kids," Barajas tells NBC7.
Once settled in Tijuana, Barajas went on to apply for executive clemency in the form of a gubernatorial pardon from the California governor’s office.
Brown granted that pardon on April 15.
“Since his release from custody, [Barajas] has lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character and conducted himself as a law abiding citizen,” the governor’s pardon states. “Indeed, Mr. Barajas served in the United States Army and received the Humanitarian Service Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, among other awards.”
The pardon also mentions the veteran’s work with the Support House and adds that by completion of his sentence and good conduct, Barajas “has paid his debt to society and earned a full and unconditional pardon.”
With the pardon, Barajas could now apply for re-entry in to the U.S.
You can read the rest at NBC 4 Los Angeles.