At Friendship Park – the meeting place for those living in the United States to share brief moments with their loved ones who have been deported – Bernie Sanders shed light on an immigration issue that isn’t always reported on. During his visit to the Tijuana border on Saturday, Bernie spoke to Héctor Barajas, a U.S. veteran deported to his native Mexico, through a fence. Barajas joined the 82nd Airborne in 1995, but after pleading guilty to discharging a firearm, he was deported in 2004. He snuck back into the country to see his daughter, and the U.S. permanently banned him from re-entering in 2009, according to Fox News Latino.
Barajas, who started the Deported Veterans Support House in 2013 to provide a community for other U.S. veterans repatriated to Mexico, has called for service members to be allowed back into the country they served. Though it’s not clear whether or not Sanders knew the specifics about Barajas’ case, he thanked him personally. “Thank you very much for your service to this country,” he said. “And we would like you on this side.”
For Barajas, Bernie’s words meant everything. “For someone who has so much respect and support from the American people to thank me for my service and to wish that I was on that side of the fence is huge,” he told Fusion. “I’m still blown away. I keep watching the video, wishing I could have said something better.”
Currently, about 35,000 non-citizens serve in our military, but immigration officials don’t have an estimate on how many veterans have been deported. Barajas tells Fusion that he knows of at least 120 who have been repatriated back to 25 different countries.