SAN DIEGO – Two war veterans who were exiled in Mexico for up to 10 years managed to regain their United States citizenship in San Diego County.
During his exile in Tijuana, he said he did not think this day would come, however, he said he was happy to start a new chapter in the country he fought for.
Raising their hands as they took the oath from the Citizenship Resource Center, Mauricio Hernandez and Lionel Contreras didn’t wait for thunderous applause.
Hernandez, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, said, “We are no longer the same exiled villains we are, today we are good citizens of the country we fought for, we are Americans and American citizens.”
Their stories, though varied, assure that what they have in common is how difficult it was to live in exile and away from the country for which they gave their lives in battle.
“The customs here in Mexico are very different from the customs here in the United States and my mind is always comparing one system to the other,” recalled Contreras, a Vietnam War veteran.
it’s been two decades since
Hernandez showed us photographs of his days in Afghanistan, and assured that there, as an infantryman, he saw things that marked him for life, however, the hardships of exile in these moments and the years since 2012 Being away from your kids was added. ,
“We were there, we did what was necessary so that people could sleep well at night, the American people, all citizens, it was not easy, we were in many places where we would not want anyone to be,” Hernandez said.
It’s the same for Contreras, who said she worked as a hairdresser and call center in Tijuana as best she could to adapt to a city she knew nothing about.
“It’s difficult because nobody tells you what you have to do or how you’re going to do it,” Contreras said.
Lawyers assured that the process for these people who worked in the case of Contreras in the Vietnam War and Hernandez in Afghanistan was not easy, however, last year a record was broken in the number of deported veterans that were managed in the United States. To return and become a citizen of the United States.
“It was a dream, nobody came back and now we have about 100 people who have come back,” said Jenny Pascarella, director of migrant rights for the ACLU.
Activists assure, however, that there is still much work to be done, as despite the number of veterans who have managed to return, they estimate that there are around 500 deportees in various countries and that many continue to die on foreign soil, part of A series of signed flags for all veterans who were deported.
“Comrades continue to die, one died a week ago in Juárez and he was in the INVETS process and they didn’t give him a humanitarian visa,” said Hector Barajas, director of the exiled veterans’ home.
Lawyers and activists assure that at least 20 war veterans who were deported last year received their citizenship and up to 65 have managed to legally return to the United States, according to the Citizenship Resource Center.