A Mexican-born veteran who was deported twice and led a year-long struggle to return to the US, became a US citizen on Friday in San Diego.
"Citizenship only confirms what I've always felt in my heart: I'm a proud American patriot," said Hector Barajas-Varela, asking questions from supporters and veterans groups in front of the US Civil Rights and Immigration Department building (USCIS). to splurge.
Barajas-Varela was sworn in at a private naturalization ceremony, surrounded by loved ones, a move that was made possible by Governor Jerry Brown's pardon last year.
"I want to thank Gov. Jerry Brown for this historic pardon, which was my biggest barrier," Barajas-Varela said. "He showed that California has preserved its values and supported immigrants like me."
Barajas-Varela was released in 2004 after serving two years in prison for shooting an occupied vehicle in 2002, before being deported again in 201
Last month, Barajas-Varela learned that he was granted US citizenship. Brown removed a major obstacle to citizenship by pardoning him last year and noted his excellent military service and lobbying.
"I am in the United States," Barajas-Varela said shortly after crossing the San Ysidro in a Facebook Live Post Port of Entry
A group of friends, community members and gathered outside the Mexico-Mexico border other deported veterans in front of the Deported Veterans Home in Tijuana, founded in 2013 by Barajas-Varela.
"All the brothers who are still here, we know, we have the motto: 'Do not leave anyone behind.' But I told you guys that I would like to take with you – bring along." Barajas Varela said to hold back tears, whereupon a man in the crowd answered, "We'll get there, mate."
He then traveled to Tijuana on the way to downtown San Diego, where he pledged his allegiance to the US and was sworn in as an American citizen.
During his eight years in Tijuana, Barajas-Varela worked directly with the US Department of Veterinary Affairs in San Diego to open the health department of the deported veterans support house. 19659012] Through the clinic, he helped dozens of veterans to receive psychological examinations, employment counselors and lawyer assistance.
"My biggest dream is to send all my brothers and sisters home to the country where they are ready to die for," Barajas-Varela said Friday.
He is believed to be the first deported veteran to have been granted US citizenship. His story brings hope to other deported veterans and veterans facing deportations.
"Now we can finally say 'yes', he has opened the doors to the other veterans," said Manuel Valenzuela, a veteran facing deportation.
Valenzuela swore to Barajas-Varela that he would come to San Diego for his arrival in the US, and made the journey from Colorado Springs to follow a promise he made nine years ago when the two of them arrived met.
Valenzuela After the ceremony they told the NBC 7.
Barajas-Varela was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and came to the US with his parents at the age of seven. He grew up in the US and joined the US Army in 1995. He has received numerous awards and prizes, including Army Commando Medal and Humanitarian Medal.
He was honorably released in 2001.
After serving in the army, Barajas-Varela said he had difficulty adapting civilians to life. He became addicted to drugs and was sentenced to two years in jail and nearly a year in prison in 2002 after refusing to shoot an occupied vehicle.
Following his release, he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who deported him to Nogales, Sonora
In an interview with the Associated Press, Barajas-Varela said he did not believe in life in Mexico a country he was unfamiliar with back to the US before being deported again in 2010.
Barajas-Varela wants to change his circumstances this time.
"I'm a pure American patriot, I'm proud to be in my adopted home with the 82nd Airborne paratrooper, and I think I'm not less Americans because of the mistakes I've made," he said on Friday.
He plans to spend another year with the Deferred Veterans Relief Camp before returning to his family. He wants to go back to school, continue to support the community and bring his daughter through college.