Booted and banned: Former U.S. troops battle to come home
By Bill Briggs
NBC News contributor
Five ex-American service members are mashed into a two-bedroom apartment in the Mexican border town of Rosarito Beach — a place of last stand, a foreign exile they’ve dubbed the “support house for banished veterans.”
Courtesy of Hector Barajas Expelled to Mexico from the United States after serving in the American military, veterans Fabian Rebolledo (first from the left), Juan Jose Sotomayor (third from the left) and Hector Barajas fourth from the left) are waging a legal battle for medical benefits and, perhaps, a return home. Tony Lamson, (second from the left), is a missionary helping the veterans
All five were deported from the United States after being convicted of unrelated crimes — including nonviolent offenses — committed after serving their nation, both in war and peace. They’re using their cramped hub to push for veterans’ medical benefits and lobby for a Congressional hearing to examine their expulsions. Yet there’s an even more pressing matter: more ex-U.S. troops are headed their way following similar deportations.
“It’s just a matter of time before I get two or three more guys. We don’t have the room. I guess we’ll put up some tents outside,” said Hector Barajas, 36, leader of the house and an Army paratrooper from 1995 to 2001. He immigrated from Mexico with his family when he was a child, growing up in Compton, Calif. Soon after his service, he pleaded guilty to firing a gun into a vehicle. No one was hurt. He served two years. In 2004, he was deported to Mexico.
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