Ready for War (2019) - full transcript

Andrew Renzi's sheds light on the lives of three of the estimated thousands of immigrants who volunteer for service in the American military, yet find themselves deported from the US once their tours of duty are over.

This is a prepaid call from...

Miguel Perez.

An inmate
at the Kenosha County

Detention Center.

I didn't come home
from Afghanistan.

I never came home.

The person that left
never came home.

Something else came home.

And, uh...

You know, how am I supposed
to die, man?

What am I--what is supposed
to become of my life, you know?

You live by the sword,
you wanna die by the sword.

I struggled everyday just to...

just to feel human, man.

♪ Suspenseful music ♪


♪ suspenseful music ♪

I wouldn't say
that I hate the US.

No, I don't. I don't.

I served the US with pride

and I would've given
my life for them.

But now that I'm here,
this is a living hell.

Cartel knows that soldiers
are valuable here.

We got skills.

Who taught you
those skills?

The army.

♪ Suspenseful music ♪

Well, we're basically
looking for people that are...

selling men, you know,

to find out where
they're getting them from.

And then once we know that,
then we make a whole operation,

we'd break that down.

We take care of everyone
that's in there.

They've come from Sinaloa.

Men was supposed to come here
and then go across the border.

Now they're selling them here.

That's basically
why the war is going on.

It's getting stronger.

That's why there
are so many killings.


♪ suspenseful music ♪

So last year,
we took care

of about 200 men,
gunned down.

If you don't have
permission to sell that,

you can't be selling it.

We just wipe them out.

No mercy.

♪ Suspenseful music ♪

Hey, what's up?




The deported
US military veterans--

it almost sounds like an
oxymoron, but believe it or not,

a large number of former
military servicemen

and women have been deported.

A law dating back to President
Bill Clinton's administration

allows the federal government
to deport any non-citizen

who commits certain crimes,
even some minor crimes.

Now, this applies even if
they've served in the military.

Many vets we talked
with told us

they were promised citizenship
by their recruiters

and others told us
that they thought

they became citizens when they
took oath to join the military.

The battle against
deportation continues

for an army veteran
living in Chicago.

Private First Class
Miguel Perez Jr. Entered the US

as a legal permanent resident.

He was later convicted
of a nonviolent drug charge,

which is grounds
for deportation.

After serving
almost eight years in prison,

ICE immediately took Perez
into custody.

He is truly
a wounded warrior,

a young man
who served our country,

who suffered from

two traumatic brain injuries.

Call on ICE,
on the US Government,

on our elected officials,
our senators,

and representatives
to release him.

I'm the mother of a hero.

My son is my hero.

I'm very strong...

like my son.

Thank you for your support.


Well, Miguel Perez
is a case where he ends up

being given parole
for good conduct.

I think he finishes a college
degree while he's in prison,

you know,
turned his life around.

He thought he was going
to walk out of prison

and go home and start
his life all over,

but instead, he ends up
spending another couple years

in prison with ICE.

I've been very proud
to serve the military

and was wounded
in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I ended up losing
both my legs and...

a lot of the function
of my right arm

and spent a year
recovering at Walter Reed.

It was at Walter Reed that
I became a veteran's advocate.

So, most Americans
would be surprised to know

that we deport veterans

because they'd be surprise
to know

that we actually have people

who served this nation
in uniform,

who swear that they would
lay down their lives

to protect our freedom,

who are not yet citizens,

who are green card holders,

or are permanent
legal residents.

These folks would not be
deported had they been granted

their American citizenship
in the first place.

So, we now have a population
in places like Tijuana

of American veterans,

who are still deserving
veterans benefits

but who can't get access
to them and who can't even

come back in the country
that they defended.


- Hi, Daddy.
- Hi. What are you doing?

Well, today was
my first day of school.

I saw those pictures.
Yeah, that's beautiful.

How do you like school today?


Are you playing your games?

- Yeah.
- What are you playing?

I'm doing good in school.
I finished my homework already

at the afterschool program.

That's good. I miss you.

I miss you, too.

I'm glad you had fun
this weekend.

Pretty soon, I'll be out there
eventually, right?

Dear Hector,

it's been a long road.

You're 40 years old.

You were born in Mexico
and came

from a farming community
in Zacatecas.

You came to the US
at the age of seven.

You had the opportunity
to live the American dream.

As you got older and your
parents made the decision

to move to Compton, California,
things changed.

You were sometimes bullied and
your family was discriminated.

You eventually decided
to get away

and made one of the best
decisions in your life.

You joined the US military
for many reasons.

You wanted to get away
from the neighborhood

that you were growing up in,

promise of citizenship,

promise of an education
and a career,

most important, serving
your country being a GI Joe.

The first jump was scary.

I clearly remember the opening
of the canopy

and looking up
at the beautiful sky.

You hit the ground
like a sack of potatoes.

The night jump was beautiful.

Eventually, you were chaptered
with an honorable discharge.

You started having issues
with drugs and alcohol.

You put yourself
in a position where

somebody fired a weapon and you
ended up going to prison.

You're supposed to parole
till Immigration picks you up.

This can't be.
You served in the military.

How could they deport you?

You have a beautiful daughter
that you can't be with.

She is the most important thing
in your life.

I can't blame anybody
but myself.

I put myself in the situation.

I put myself
in the circumstances.

I don't blame God.

I made bad decisions,
but at the end of the day,

I still consider myself
an American, a patriot.

I will keep fighting
to go home.

I'm proud of my service.
I wouldn't take it back.

And if I had to do it
all over again,

I would serve my country
and put my life on the line.

You've been doing good.

It's been 13 years since
you've been in prison,

hoping one day you would live
the American dream.

♪ Dramatic music ♪

It's an upside-down flag,

which if you're in the
military, it's distress

or we're being overrun
or we need help.

Deported in 2004,

Hector Barajas runs a shelter
here in Tijuana

nicknamed The Bunker
where deported veterans

can get help
with job prospects,

immigration advice,
and legal service.

You know, the support house
is another animal in itself.

It's very difficult to work
with some of the guys.

It's a big responsibility--

getting the bills paid,
getting the guys going.

It's very difficult.

Very difficult.

I've had some very difficult
people to work with.

We are--we are very difficult
people to work with.

Today, we have
some special visitors.

One of our deported veterans
who's a Navy veteran,

Juan Llamas,

actually knows
how to work with prosthetics.

And today, they're gonna get
an impression on his foot.

So we're gonna see
what they can do for Jaime.

Like we said,
we're gonna make him walk.

You know, I do enjoy it,

especially when I see guys
doing good.

Like, they get their jobs.
They get their own place.

And that's when you're like,
you know, it's worth it.

Everything that you go through.

So, Fernando Orozco,
who's a deported veteran,

is also a barber,

and he's gonna be doing
free haircuts, and today--

so we squared him away
with some clippers

and some scissors
and all the equipment

that he's gonna need for--

to do some haircuts.

And his first guinea pig
is his brother,

who is also a deported veteran,

and both of them served
in South Korea,

so we're gonna--

Let's see how it's going down.
There we go.

He's getting a mushroom look
over here.

My commitment
is to help these guys out,

and that's what I've been
trying to do.

You know, at end of the day,
at least they could say,

"I had a place to stay,"
you know. That's--

And that's better than
anything, you know?

Hector is the...

quintessential story
of America.

This is someone
who came to this country,

who wanted a better life.

This is someone who is willing
to die for this country,

who served this country.

This is someone
who made mistakes,

who admits his mistakes,
who owns

and takes accountability
for his mistakes.

I don't think
there is a better tale

of what makes America great

than the tale
of Hector Barajas.

We know how to make
a difference.

We know how to drive change.

You know, yesterday
was a perfect reflection

when we talked about two years
ago I was approached by a group,

and they said, "We have this
issue of deported vets."

And I said, "No, no.
You got bad information.

You can't deport a veteran."

Because I was
in the Marine Corps,

and I remember
the naturalization services.

I said, "You do one day
of military service,

you get citizenship."

I didn't know that
we had systematically failed

to fulfill that commitment.

Think about the psychological
impact of being--

You were willing to--
you loved this country enough,

you were willing to die
for this country,

and you come home,
and you're struggling,

and that country kicks you out.

And we said,
"That's not enough.

We've got to do better.
We can do better."

One category of veterans
who are primarily white

and happen to have been
born here,

when they lose their way
and commit an offense,

we have a veterans' court,
and we have treatment,

and we have diversion programs.

But for that other category
of veterans

who wore the same uniforms,

who slept in the same mud,

who fought in the same battles,

for that category of veterans,

we have diversion treatment
as well.

We divert you back to a country
that you may or may not know.

You know, there are
so many different reasons

why this situation is horrific

and is intolerable,

but another one
is as simple as the fact

that we can't export those
who we've trained

at the highest levels

to be effective
in combat situations

to environments where they're
prone to be recruited into

things that would be detrimental
to the--to the United States.

They're the first ones
that the drug lords

and the cartels will prey on.

♪ Suspenseful music ♪

I grew up...

as an American
in my youngster years.

I was raised in El Paso.

Got there when
I was 10 years old.

I joined the services because
I wanted respect for myself,

for my family. I wanted
something to be proud of.

I needed some discipline
in my life,

and so I joined the Army.

We were proud, you know.
We were helping people.

We were good soldiers,

and all of a sudden,

things just changed for me

I got into some trouble.

I committed an assault on
another dude for shitty stuff,

which it was--

it was a necklace.

And the government
just threw me out.

Being here in Juárez,

I wasn't used to the life here.

I missed the US.

When I got here back in 2010,

it was--
it was like a horror movie.

I was alone.

And--because of all that
I left in the US,

it hit me.
It hit me hard.

Part of the cartels,

they have their own lieutenants.

We can say it's a type
of like a lieutenant.

Now these people,

they're ruthless.

They're cold.

They don't care.

They have no respect for life,
women, kids.

It don't matter.

And they said
not only you will be killed.

Your family,

your mother, your father,
your brothers,

everyone will be killed.

I felt it was necessary
for me to do this,

to stay alive.

So now I have to face
my reality.

I'm on the other side now.

Well, usually
every two or three weeks,

they gather a group of people

and I train them.
We're out in the desert.

I'm training people to kill.

♪ Suspenseful music ♪

is a very precious resource

for criminal organizations.

It's a valuable resource.

It's a resource
that can be exploited.

If you don't want...

drug cartels to have
military training,

but you are creating a scenario

where they could.

Well, Mexico is now
the second deadliest country

in the world
after only Syria, Shannon.

While they're in a civil war,

Mexico's violence is attributed
to only one thing-- drugs.

My name is Michael Vigil.

I was with the Drug Enforcement
Administration for 31 years.

Worked undercover
extensively in Mexico.

I was the chief
of international operations

and, therefore, responsible
for all DEA operations

outside the continental
United States.

The war between Juárez

and the Sinaloa Cartel
rages on.

And Juárez has become
one of the most violent

and deadly cities in the world.

♪ Dramatic music ♪

Mexico saw a record
2,186 murders in May,

30 % more than last year

and the most in two decades.

The capture of former Sinaloa
Cartel leader, El Chapo,

and others, returned,

fueled largely by the US
meth and heroin epidemic.

Juárez is a primary
drug trafficking route

for the Sinaloa Cartel,
for the Juárez Cartel,

because probably about
60 % to 70 % of the drugs

that are smuggled across
into the United States

go through
the Juárez-El Paso corridor.

The Juárez Cartel

has proclaimed
their prohibition

against the use or distribution
of methamphetamine

because that is a market
that is basically cornered

by the Sinaloa Cartel.

Well, the veterans
that are deported into Mexico

are gonna be put in the hands

of a very deadly, deadly enemy.

It's the old saying
of plata o plomo.

You either take our money

or you take our lead
or our bullets.

They are reluctant individuals

that are put
into a precarious situation

not of their choice.

And I think that

that is a very
deplorable standard

that we have used for people

that really have done
a great job

as soldiers for this country.

So, I want to hear
a little bit

about your childhood.

Did you grow up
as an American?

There's no precedent
that I have seen for them

granting citizenship
back in time,

but we're gonna make it
a precedent.

This will be the first one,
I really believe that,

because it makes sense,
you know.

Let's give him citizenship
like we should have

when he was in basic training,

when he was in jump school,

when he was being trained
as a mechanic,

when he went the first time
to the war

and put his life on the line
for the country,

when he went the second time.

And if he is a citizen

back to the time
he went to war,

his subsequent crime
after he got back

would have no effect on him.

He'd be allowed to be here.
He'd get out of the jail.

Today, Illinois
US Senator Tammy Duckworth

sent an urgent letter

to the secretary
of Homeland Security

asking the Trump Administration
to stay Perez's deportation

and review his case.

Perez's lawyer says,
"If there's any case to review,

it's that of a veteran
who served two tours of war."

I just don't see
any argument about--

well, you come back
damaged from a war

and then there's something bad

and you get no breaks,
you get no mercy,

you never can redeem yourself.

That makes no sense.

God bless you. Take care.

This is.
This is where a lot

of the people
that deported they end up at,

and basically people end up
being homeless.

A couple of thousand people,
like, live in this area,

shooting up, and, you know.
If you get depressed,

if you go through
all these different issues,

you could end up down here.

So part of our work
is to make sure that these guys

don't end up homeless,

that they don't end up

Yeah, you don't want
to end up here.

This is a no-man's-land.


The military
was very structured for me.

I got out of the military,

and then transitioning
is very difficult.

Addiction has been one
of the issues

that I've had all my life,

and that's what end up
getting me deported.

Good evening, everybody.
This is Specialist Barajas

down here at the Deported
Veterans Support House.

And I wanna get home
to my daughter hopefully soon.

And hopefully, I'll be
the first deported veteran

to come home as a US citizen.

So, right now, we're
in the process of citizenship,

so hopefully
we should find out

whether I become an American
citizen or not.

I have no expectations,

but I also hope
for the best, you know,

just to, you know, kind of wait
and see what happens.

I have some really,
really, good news.


I'm going to be issued
a interview

for citizenship
within 60 to 90 days,

and I should be back
in the United States pretty soon

to get my interview.

So this is fucking good news.

Oh, yeah.

I don't want to be here

for another ten years
or five years

and see my daughter
grow up without me.

So I'm hoping
that we get a decision.

I can take her to school
and help her with her homework

and be there for her
when she needs me.

To be honest with you,
I know that I needed her

probably more
than that she needs Dad,

so that's, you know,
it's important for me

to hopefully, you know,

get that chance to be a father
for the second time.

We see the sky
as so much greater

than any wall.

We ask your blessing now
on these families.

We ask your blessing
on all who are separated

from their loved ones.

And we ask, O God,
that you would change hearts,

and change minds
and change laws

that someday the families
of the earth would be reunited.

Hector is the best
possible example

of somebody who has completely
turned his life around--

from a place
where he was really struggling

reintegrating into society
after leaving the military

to a place
where he is singlehandedly

running a shelter
for deported veterans,

leading really what has become
international advocacy

on this issue, and giving
everything of himself.

But it doesn't
require that either.

We're not requiring sainthood,
you know.

People are able to learn
from their mistakes

and improve their lives.

And we shouldn't be separating

fathers and mothers
from their children

who have lived their whole
lives in the United States,

have fully committed
and invested in this country.


During his next hearing,

his attorney will argue
that the cartels in Mexico

could threaten Perez.

They know, you know,

you've got weapons training,
military training,

you have ins with people
in the United States,

and you're gonna work for us.

In the most perverse way
I've ever seen,

we're actually training people

to then come back
and fight against us.

These folks
are especially vulnerable

to being, um, uh, recruited,

and then by recruited,
I mean, forcibly given a choice

between death
and joining the gangs.

I've looked at a lot
of the deported veterans

that have military skills

that have basically created

a national security threat,
not only for Mexico,

but, you know,
that violence has spilled over

into the United States.

Five, six years ago,

you would look at pictures
of, uh,

drug cartel shootouts,

and you would see a dead body
in a wall

with a hundred bullets
behind that.

Nowadays, you see a dead body

with two shots to the chest
and one in the groin.

That's how military
members shoot.

So you have to ask yourself,

who's teaching them to shoot,

or who is doing the shooting?



If someone sends you,
you just have to do it.

If you don't do it,
they're gonna kill you.

So it's either you or him.

- No filming.
- All right, stop.





I was anxious. I was nervous.

It's hard
to becoming used to it,

but then,
you also get hooked on it.

Even when you're not
killing anyone,

you feel the need
to see that blood, you know?

You feel the need
to kill someone.

Once you get used to it,

you get cold, you can't stop.

Well, it was,
like-like, five or six,

after five or six victims,

it's-it's tough, it's tough.

So I would like
to get out of this, but I can't.

The only way I get out of this

is if I move
to another country.

Even if I stay here in Mexico,
they will find me.


Most of my vets,
you know,

they have psychological issues
and, you know,

they could easily fall back
into addiction

or criminal organization
cartels could target 'em.

I'm trying my best to, uh,

to keep them out of that
and keep them structured.

The Support House
for the last couple of years

has really helped me,
uh, stay focused.

No deported veteran has ever
gone home as a US citizen,

and I wanna be the first one.

I'll tell you right now,

if we're successful
in bringing Hector back,

it is a-a light
in a sea of darkness.

I'm not saying
that the-these vets

didn't-didn't do
what they did.

Uh, and I'm not
even saying the penalty,

which they all already paid--

They already completed
their penalty

for the offense of which
they committed was too great.

What I'm saying
is because of that conviction,

what the federal government did
is the injustice.

And the only way
that we can right that wrong

is by pardoning
the original offense,

because if that original offense
is pardoned,

then their legal status
is restored

and they're eligible
for citizenship.

Um, I'm over here
with Nathan Fletcher,

and, uh, I got a pardon
from the--

from the governor
of California.

Uh, awesome.

I-I can't talk over here.

So I'm very happy to tell
everybody that I got a pardon

from the State of California,
from the governor.

Oh, my God, this is huge.

I can, uh--

I can--it--it'll be--
uh, the process will be easier

for me to go home
to my family, so, uh,

I'm just very thankful
and I've been--

uh, uh, uh, I'm just still,
like, uh,

at a loss for words.

You never--
when you were out there

in the States, you never thought
about getting it, or--

Oh, no. Yeah, yeah.

Like, I got the Airborne tattoo
in the back,

and the guys keep--
uh, most of the guys I run into

keep thinking
it's Alcoholic Anonymous.

So, we have, um,

received the pardon
from the governor for Hector.

And that should enable him

to naturalize immediately.

There should be no question
about his eligibility

to naturalize.

However, we're seeing
that the government

is just continuing to sit on it
and we're not seeing progress,

and so we're not sure,

you know,
which way it's gonna go,

whether we're gonna have
to take his case

to federal court, um,

or whether the government will
finally move his case along

and issue a decision.

A Chicago war veteran
who served two tours

at Afghanistan
is now facing deportation.

Tomorrow, a judge
will decide his fate.

Everybody good? All right.

- Yeah.
- All right.

So, I was in an interview
this morning with Miguel

and two officers
from Immigration, USCIS.

Um, they basically did
all the regular things

that would happen.
They interviewed him.

Did the citizenship test.
He got every question correct.

- We knew it.
- Yeah.

Uh, and then at the end,

Miguel, uh, talked about how--

I thought this was really
poignant. He said, um,

"There's houses
and then there's homes.

There's jobs
and there's careers."

He goes, "I might've
been born in Mexico,

but I'm an American
in my heart."

And he said,
"That's why I served,

that's why
my grandfather served."

And his uncles
served in the military.

It's nice and warm in this
little huddle

because it's
really cold outside.

But now we're all huddled
in a little corner.

And the first time

I felt this warm
in a little while.

- Right.
- But, Miguel,

we're all praying for you
and we're--

we-we really believe
that it's time

and that they're gonna come up
with a positive decision.

That's how we all feel.

The veterans are all here
for you

and tons of people and press.

You know, we're all waiting
to hear the good news.


So I just received
a call from USCIS.

They have a decision to render

to Miguel and myself
in person only.

So they asked me to come down
as soon as possible

and I'm gonna go inside now,
into the lockup,

and we're gonna get
the decision.

God is in charge.

Go in there
and get the job done.

God is in charge.

Miguel Perez, Jr.

Amen, amen, amen.


Whenever you're ready,
let me know.

Um, okay.
So, I was handed, uh,

a decision by the two officers

who interviewed Miguel today.

Um, and it's said

they were denying
his citizenship

based on a lack
of good moral character.

Uh, once again,
the drug conviction.

Uh, so I-I went
and talked to Miguel

and I gave him the bad news.

Um, you know,
he was disappointed, obviously.

But he said,
"I'm not giving up"

or "We're gonna keep fighting."

Just because you're born
in Mexico

doesn't make you
a different kind of soldier.

Your blood is shed
for this country.

This Constitution and this flag.

And we're tired
of the injustice.

And we're gonna continue
to fight.

All they did
was handed me an envelope

with the decision and shook
my hand and walked away.

Maybe, this is
their statement, like,

"Hey, if we can do this
to this guy,

two-time military vet, you know,

went to war,
then nobody's safe, right?"

So it's putting fear into
the whole immigrant community.

All right. Good afternoon,

So, uh, I just got a, uh, email

from-from the attorneys.

USCIS has issued me
an official, uh,

appointment for, uh,

But Homeland Security
would not let me cross

to make it happen, so it's a--
it's a bunch of bullshit.

So, uh, I think it's bullshit
that our-our other veterans

recently got denied.


most of these guys
suffer from PTSD.

They need to be treated
over there.

They need to see doctors.

So, uh, we're not gonna give up.

I'm a little-little pissed off
but... It's all good.

Uh, like we say,
we may have lost the battle,

uh, but we have--
but we haven't lost the war.

Uh, you know, as it stands,
the only way

deported veterans can
return home is when they die.

And then Uncle Sam,
uh, the US government,

buries them, pays for their plot
and their VA headstone.

Nobody should have to bury
a loved one

or take them back in a box
like we've had in the past.


I'm very proud
of-of everybody that's here.

All the--all the people
that's supporting our cause,

our families...

And we just wanna make it
home to our families,

that's all.
And I get emotional

because I-I have
a ten-year-old daughter.

I just wanna be back with her.

And I know
that all of you guys,

all the guys have kids,
have mothers, fathers.

Thank you guys
for standing with us.

- Copy.
- Stay here.


I kind of wanna, like, talk

a little bit about this.
Why are you...

Yeah, what's up?

All right.
I'm ready.

Thanks, man.

Why are you cool,
like, doing this?

And, like, why-why are you cool
with us?

I mean, this must be tough.

the-the main reason

is because some people
might judge me

because of what I've done.

But they don't really know
my life.

You know, people don't know
what I've been through.

And I'm not saying I'm a victim.

I'm not saying that,
but at least I have the guts

to stand up and say what I am.

- And what are you?
- Well,

I'm just like a cleanup guy,
you know.

I clean up the garbage.

And if I'm given
the opportunity here

to provide what I've known,

what I've seen,
what I've been through,

because this is sick.

What goes on here, it's sick.

And there's no other word
for it.

You said
that you were thinking

that you would like to send
your kid to the United States.

Yes, I've been preparing my son
for all this.

You know, I-I have told him that

maybe somebody I won't come back

because it's-
it's risky out there.


What could you say--

what would you say to your son

if this was your opportunity
to say something?

I'll definitely tell him
to take care of himself,

love his family,

and be good.

To be good,
not to follow my steps,

'cause, uh,

everything around here,
it's drugs and death.

There's nothing else,

and I don't want him
to be in my place.

He should be
way better than me,

because I don't feel
like a winner.

Actually, this is more
like a loser.

Being around here,
even though I stand--

I still stand to this day

after five or six years
working for these guys,

and... that doesn't give me
any guarantees

that I'm gonna be alive
in the next couple of years,

maybe, months or even days.

You have a collect call from...

Miguel Perez.

For now, it's too late for Perez

as his deportation is underway.

And he has no family in Mexico,
no money, no clothes,

and his family, and his fear
is when he gets there

that he, uh, will be killed
by the cartels.

- Uh-hmm.
- Army veteran

who served two tours
in Afghanistan

has been deported to Mexico.

Miguel Perez was escorted

across the border from Texas

after his application for US
citizenship was denied

because of a drug conviction.

Perez had been living
in the U.S.

since he was eight years old

and has two American-born



They say a home
is where the heart is.

And I used to--uh, what?

That doesn't even make sense.
It makes perfect sense

right now.

Home is where the heart is.

My-my heart is not here.
My safety is not here.

My heart, my son and daughter,

a big part of my heart
are in Chicago.

Uh, the Cubs, the Bears,

big part of my heart in Chicago.

New England, Tom Brady,
and the Patriots, well,

back home.

My father.

Not-not in any particular order
but, uh, you know, then--

they'll be, like, wait a minute,
don't put your--

Tom Brady above your father.

No. It's not--it's just...

No, this could never be home.

- Oh, little cute mousey.
- Uh-huh.



As you guys know,
recently I was denied a visa

and a parole

to go into the United States,
but I've, uh,

been granted the opportunity
to have it at the border.

We're gonna head over
to the border

in about five minutes,

and we're very excited.
We're gonna do what we can.

- Semper fi.
- Get you home, man.

Thanks everybody for being here.
I love you guys,

and nothing is gonna change
what's in my heart,

who I feel, who I am.

I love my country.
I love you guys.

I love my family,

we're gonna make it.

All right, everybody,
good afternoon.

So, we're at the Deported
Veteran Support House.

I just came out
from the interview

and I hate to do
the selfie stick, but

I went for my citizenship

Unfortunately, uh,
because my case

is not the regular textbook
citizenship application,

basically, I'm gonna get
a decision

within a hundred--a hundred
and 20 days.

When I, uh, finished
my interview,

I actually--uh,

I had to go through
the regular lanes

as they come back into Mexico.

So I was, uh, in the United
States territory on the--

on the outside offices

for a couple of seconds.

That was awesome.
It felt good.

It felt good to be on-on-on-
on soil,

US soil, for even
three freaking seconds.


I'm excited.
I'm excited to see my mother.

I'm happy to see Pastor Emma.

And it's just kind of,

just the thoughts
about how I have to go

get deported
to a different country

to be able to hug my mother.

A--a US citizen

that her son fought...

for the US

got to come all the way
to Mexico

to hug her son.

I'm-I'm very happy,
but it's, uh, bittersweet.


I still have
panic attacks, anxiety.

I scream at night

and I got about a week
and a half,

uh, worth of medicine just--

- That's it?
- That's it.

You only have a week
and a half?


What is gonna happen after?

I don't know. That's what--
the first priority right now

was just to see my mother.
- Your mom is here.

But they're not-- they're
leaving in a couple of days.

They have to.
They have to go back--


- So--
- Uh, and this--

So you're gonna be here

without family,
without your medicine?


For how long
have you been in this--

uh, have you been,
uh, deported?

Uh, deported since 2004,

so we're going on 14, uh,
14 years.

- Wow.
- Yeah.

And there are guys that have
been deported for 20 years.

It's-it's been a long time.

Some people
they never go back home, right?

Yeah, we have got--
we just buried a guy

over in Tijuana
just a couple of days ago.

We buried a brother.

And, uh, he--

and they see--
they cremated him,

uh, a couple of days ago.

And, uh, it's the only way
he's going home.

- Wow.
- Right now,

are you planning
on staying in Tijuana

or you're going down south?
Or what are your--

What are your plans right now?
Just kind of up in the air?

Yeah, but yeah, that's--

and there's--
and there's a housing.

It's the biggest one
that we have,

so they get to stay here
for dur-certain time,

three weeks minimum,
and then, you know,

depending on the guy,
if they're doing well.

But we try to get
the guys to find work

and then just move out
and get their own place.

What type of--um,
what type of work is available?

Call centers.
You can work in call centers.

In--with his English,
he can work at call centers.

That's--they're the best paying
jobs in Tijuana.

Uh, with Miguel's case,
it's difficult to see somebody

just starting out,
their sense.

Right now, he's-he's--
he's, like,

in a little bubble right now

with what--you know,
his family being here

and-and everybody.

But as soon as you guys are--
you know, or everybody's gone,

then you're in reality.

You know, you--
you're down here by yourself.

The good thing is, you got--
you know, you got the vets here.

You got all of the supporters.

But you're gonna have
to face that

"I may be here
for the rest of my life."

Just 20. Uh, you're 20?

- Yeah.
- And you're still--

you're still my little girl.

Uh-hmm. Uh-hmm.

Stop being potty mouth.

You got--you got braces?

Ooh. Did you brush your teeth?

Okay. Okay.

Yeah, I could tell. There's
no bumper. It's so ghetto.

Let me see your ears.

Oh, nice.

Oh, she misses everybody.



Tomorrow, I will find out
about my citizenship.

Regardless of the decision,
we're gonna continue to do,

uh, the advocacy
and the work that we're doing.

My name is Liliana Morales.

My daddy is a deported veteran.

My daddy is currently
doing applications

to come home right now.

If maybe you guys could
please help-

help out my dad come back home,
that would be great.

And why do you want us--

why do you want me
to get home, mama?

Because you've been away
for years and I don't want--

I don't just want us
to just Skype.

I want us to be together.

One way
or the other, ultimately,

justice will prevail,

and these veterans
will come home.

Uh, and the conversation about
immigration in our country,

uh, will change.

This should not be
a partisan issue.

This should be an issue about

doing right by those
who have served this nation,

by those who have defended us.

We need to fix the system.

We need to allow people
who served this country,

who put on her uniform
and will say,

"I'm willing to defend
the Constitution

of the United States
from all enemies,

foreign and domestic."
And if they serve honorably,

they do their tour,
give them the citizenship,

and then we wouldn't have
this problem.

The United States
is a beautiful experiment.

But it's not an experiment
that is going to sustain itself.

It's an experiment that it takes

every single individual
to protect,

and no one knows better
than veterans.

Veterans understand this.

And you're deporting
United States veterans,

honorable discharged veterans.

You're deporting,
you're kicking them out,

your most loyal men and women,

those who stood up for you,

those who are broken inside

because of their service?

It ain't right.

It might be lawful.

Yeah, definitely, it's lawful.

It's lawful to deport
a United States veteran,

but it's not just, and
it's definitely not American.

Hello, everybody.
It's Hector Barajas here,

and, uh, we have, uh,
some really good news.

Uh, I just missed,
uh, a visit

from one of my brothers
that I served with.

Uh, he was at Fort Bragg
when I was in--

uh, stationed
with the 82nd Airborne.

Anyway, he-he did bring me
something unique

that we normally don't get,
which is, uh, as you can see.

You know, I actually was--
used to work at Taco Bell,

so, Mexican pizza,
uh, some chalupas

and some quesadillas.

Normally, we eat the, you know,
the stuff that's out here.

You know, there was
never a single day

in the Marine Corps
if-if-if I had a mission

that I would go back and say,
"Hey, you know what?

It was hard.
I just decided to say,

What the hell? I'm not gonna
do it?" That's not what we do.

Right? I mean,
when you hit that wall

and you're the first one
to hit that wall

and you crack it a little bit,
but you don't get through,

you know what you do?
You come back

and you-you-you-you reset,

and you charge it harder.

And so we've hit
that wall for Hector

and we broke through,
and we got him a pardon.

And we're gonna hit it
to get him home

and get him a citizenship,
and I don't care

how many times
we've gotta hit it.

We will keep hitting
that damn wall

until we get him home.

And if he isn't successful in-

in the initial court case,
I wanna be there

to tell him that.



Deported Veterans Support House.

Okay. All right.
Well, that's--that sounds good.


God. It's killing me.


So we got a decision.

- Okay.
- And we brought

- you news.
- Uh-hmm.

And we've always said
from the beginning

- we never stop fighting--
- Exactly.

Regardless of what we got.
And so, um,

as you look at it and read it,

um, and you just got
to know we--

- we're never gonna stop.
- Sure. Definitely.

So, uh, we're just gonna do
a quick prayer.


Thank you for this opportunity
that I have today.

Uh, the pardon was one
of the biggest hurdles.

Uh, just being able to go
through this process,

and re-regardless
of what happens,

we're gonna continue this fight.

I ask you to please continue
to take care of our families,

our loved ones, and, uh, just--

I'm glad these people are here
to-to be here for this decision.

Um, again, thank you
for this day, Lord.

And I'll say, as a--
as a Marine,

I've never seen an Army guy
who fights like you, man.

Right? We love you, brother.

Yeah. And-and that is true.
And without your leadership,

uh, none of the progress
would've been made.

The legislation
wouldn't have happened,

pardons wouldn't have happened,

and, uh,
we wouldn't be here today.

- So, um--
- Okay.

Let's go ahead
and let's get this over with.

All right.
So let's see what happens.

Uh, hope for the best
and expect the worst.

Read it out loud.

Uh, da-da-da-da-da.

"Application copy,
United States citizen--

Immigration Services
thanks you for your interest

in becoming
a United States citizen.

You must now appear--"


- You got it.
- Woo-hoo-hoo.

Congratulations, brother.

April 13. April 13.
You're coming home.

My God.

Oh, my God.

Oh, wow.

Okay, Hector.

Fourteen years, man.



Oh, my God.

Oh, my God.

And we'll keep fighting
for your brothers.

And I'm not stopping
for any of you guys,

because you're my commitment.


I'm coming home, Mom.

Bravo, bravo.

Wow. This is great, man.

Thank you.

Oh, wow.

Got a relative.

- You deserve it.
- I love you.

I love you, Mom.

All right.

This is insane.
It's never happened.

They never had
a Mexican deported--

who got deported back,
to go home as a citizen.

- It's the first.
- Yes.

- First of many.
- Yeah.

First of many.


I'm like a shape.

You know,
nobody can know about me.

I'm just a rumor.

But I have to stay strong.

And, you know,
I'm gonna ask you

this question, like--
and, like,

just know that I don't--
I'm not coming from a place

of judgment at all.
I'm actually just curious

to hear, like, what your--
what your thoughts on this are.

So, there's a lot of veterans,
a lot of deported veterans that,

you know, don't end up
joining the cartel.

And they're trying to go back.

They're trying to get home.

Do you feel as though your work
can give them a bad name?

Well, no. I just feel sorry
for them, you know, because...

I don't think
there's gonna be a way

for any veteran to go back

if they're--
if they already been deported.

If I told you that
there are veterans that are--

that are now--
just now being accepted

to go back,
what would your reaction be?

Well, I don't know.
You have to show me.

Yeah, there are.
There's the--there's--

We filmed with a guy.
We actually filmed

him getting, uh, getting the--
getting the response

from the US government

to get let back in
as a citizen.

And they give him-- uh, they
give him, uh, the chance?

Yeah. They giving him
another chance.

But if you think about-
about knowing about this,

you think they're gonna
give me a chance?

I don't know.
That's not really for me

to decide but, uh, I guess
it's more about, like,

do you feel as though
the decisions

that you've made now
after being deported

disqualify you from that?

Well, I actually
don't care anymore,

I'll say that.

I'm-I'm gonna stay here.

♪ Happy birthday to you ♪

- Cha, cha, cha.
- Cha, cha, cha.

♪ Happy Birthday to you ♪

♪ Cha, cha, cha ♪

♪ Happy birthday, dear Hector ♪

- What's your name again?
- Hector.

♪ Happy birthday to you ♪

- ♪ And many more ♪
- Yeah.

♪ And many more ♪

- Whoa.
- Time to blow out the candles?

- Oh, yeah.
- Yeah. Go for it.

It's okay now.

You wanna help me? Yeah.

- Yay.
- Get that one.

Get that one.

Come on.

- Yay!
- Yay!

Happy birthday, mijo.

I called earlier.
I really just said,

"Yeah, whatever.

What do you want?
You want me to send you

some money?
What do you need?"

...for a few days.

For a couple nights.

Oh, wow.

I was just waiting
for some paperwork.