For five years, deported Army veteran Hector Barajas-Varela has been fighting one of America’s largest bureaucracies. Now, he’s seeing some payoff for the deported vets he advocates for in Tijuana, Mexico.
It had only been a few weeks, maybe a month, since Jose Camacho had been relieved of his prison shackles and stepped off a U.S. immigration bus into the dusty streets of Ciudad Juárez to set about building a new life south of the border. That’s when an old friend showed up. Not a friend, really — someone he knew. A guy he’d met on the inside. “Let’s get a beer,” he suggested. Camacho didn’t drink anymore, and he told the guy so. But the guy was persistent. Squinting over the guy’s shoulder, Camacho could see someone else in the car, a man he didn’t know, but he recognized the tattoos. This wasn't an invitation.
Hector Barajas came to the United States from Mexico when he was 7 years old and became a green card-carrying resident, meaning he could legally live and work in the U.S., but was still subject to deportation. Deciding that he wanted to give back to his adopted country, he enlisted in the Army at 18. Barajas served in the 82nd Airborne from 1995–2001 when he left the service with an honorable discharge.