California Gov. Jerry Brown took unprecedented action by pardoning three deported war veterans for crimes committed when they returned to civilian life, bringing them hope they will be allowed to return to the U.S., the place they call home.
The coalition, Honorably Discharged, Dishonorably Deported celebrated Brown’s decision; calling it historic since it is the first time a governor attempts to “deal with the injustices affecting deported veterans.”
While the governor’s pardons may help in the appeals of their deportations, there is no guarantee immigration enforcement authorities will reverse their decisions.
Earlier this year, a petition was sent to the State of California, appealing the cases of Héctor Barajas, Erasmo Apodaca and Marco Antonio Chávez Medina, veterans who were deported to Mexico following the completion of their prison sentences.
“These veterans sacrificed their lives to defend our country and were promised full citizenship in exchange for their military service, they should have never been deported,” said Nathan Fletcher, a veteran and the coalition’s leader.
He added that the cases, included in a plea requesting pardons for 72 inmates and seven commutations of sentences, “give hope to the hundreds of deported veterans who are still fighting to return to the nation they honorably served.”
Hector Barajas, a former paratrooper in the U.S. Army and founder of the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana, Mexico, said, “there weren’t any words to describe the joy” he felt when he heard he had been pardoned by Brown. He added he also felt “sad,” because the same day he received the news a deported veteran from the U.S, arrived at the support house known as “the bunker.”
Barajas, who came to the U.S. when he was 7, served in the Army from 1995 to 2001. He says he believed he would automatically become a citizen following his service, as he was told when recruited, only later finding out he had to go through the application and testing process before being granted citizenship.
He was deported after serving a three-year sentence for shooting at a car a few months after being discharged from the Army.
Apodaca was sentenced to prison for robbery after he was found inside his ex-girlfriend’s house, while Chavez Medina was sentenced to two years for animal cruelty, but released early for good behavior.
Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrant rights at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said that with the pardon, California’s governor has put an end to the suffering of the three ex-combatants.
U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor recipients were remembered Wednesday at a ceremony at El Pueblo Historical Monument in Downtown Los Angeles. Veterans, representing all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and others paid tribute to recipients of the country’s highest award for “conduct beyond the call of duty.” The event was hosted by the Eugene A. Obregon/Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, which is raising funds to build a monument in tribute to Latino medal recipients at El Pueblo.