Dressed in his US military uniform and accompanied by his followers, Hector Barajas-Varela received a life-changing announcement: On April 13, his naturalization ceremony will be held in San Diego, California.
The Mexican-born veteran spent ten years fighting to return to the United States, where he lived since he was seven
"That's great! I'm going home, Ma!" Barajas-Varela said, according to American lawyers Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which issued the statement announcing the decision.
"Finally, for years, Hector is battling home as a US citizen for the return of veteran returned veterans to the US," said Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigration law for California's ACLU and one of Baraja- Varela's lawyers.  According to the ACLU, Barajas-Varela is one of the more than 230 war veterans of the US forces who have been deported. In 2016, there were more than 300,000 veterans in the US who were not born in the country. One third of them had not processed their citizenship – one of the advantages promised to them when enrolling.
Barajas-Varela joined the army in 1995 and was honorably fired in 2001 after receiving numerous awards and prizes. including the medal of the Army Commendation Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.
After his military service, Barajas-Varela said he had difficulty adjusting to civilian life. His arguments with drug abuse and the no-contest plea for shooting at an occupied vehicle led in 2002 to his deportation.
Unable to adapt to life in Mexico, a country unknown to him, he headed back to the US before being deported again in 2010, Barajas-Varela said in an interview with the Associated Press ,
Proponents of deported veterans' rights say former soldiers who have difficulty adapting to civilian life, including substance abuse or other mental health or physical problems, should receive treatment instead of deportation orders.
Earlier this week federal authorities deported veteran Miguel Perez Jr. after facing drug condemnations in 2010. Before his deportation served Perez jr. two tours in Afghanistan and had been informed in earlier interviews about his traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.
Barajas-Varela lived during his 10 years in Mexico. With the support of the US Veterans Ministry in San Diego, the Relief Veterans Support Center known as the "Bunker" was founded. Last year, a delegation from the congress, including deputy Joaquín Castro (D-TX), visited the center and advocated for the deported veterans. "Many of us believe that they should be allowed to become citizens," MEP Castro said.