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Hector Barrios, Vietnam Vet & Deportee

Created: 02 December, 2012
Updated: 26 July, 2022
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1 min read

Meet deported Vietnam combat veteran Hector Barrios. Barrios was deported to Mexico due to a criminal conviction related to possession of marijuana. Today, he lives in an impoverished section of Tijuana, where he works at a taco stand and earns a few dollars a week.

This is Barrios, in his own words, recorded in 2012 on the weekend before Veteran’s Day, in his Tijuana apartment.

Hundreds or possibly thousands of military veterans have been deported for life from the United States. No one knows exactly how many. No U.S government agency keeps track.

An estimated 70,000 non-citizens served in the U.S. military between 1999-2008, according to the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA). They can enlist, as long as they’re legal permanent residents with green cards. According to the CNA, once enlisted, non-citizens stay in the military longer than their citizen counterparts.

The group “Banished Veterans” estimates the number of deported U.S. military veterans to be between 8,000 and 40,000. They say they have personally spoken to at least a hundred deported vets who now live in countries including Costa Rica, Italy, Jamaica, Bosnia, and Mexico.

Immigration law reforms implemented in 1996 require the permanent deportation of every non-citizen convicted of a long list of criminal offenses. These offense range from nonviolent crimes like fraud to more serious crimes like murder.

The 1996 changes eliminated judicial discretion in deportation proceedings. Even in cases where a legal permanent resident has a U.S citizen spouse or children and has served in the military, a judge’s hands are tied. The person must be deported. Even if a judge wanted to grant an exception to this deportation rule, he or she cannot.

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