Following their honorable discharges from the military, three former servicemembers were convicted of crimes and deported. None of these crimes resulted in a physical injury to another party.
Marines Erasmo Apodaca Mendizabal and Marco Antonio Chavez, as well as former soldier Hector Barajas Varela are the Veterans pardoned by California Governor Jerry Brown, which may restore their green cards and allow them to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, also a Marine Corps veteran, worked on their cases, and said, “The injustice we are solving is not the actual crime or conviction, the injustice is what the federal government did to them.”
As a lawful permanent resident, Erasmo Apodaca Mendizabal joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school. During his three years of service, he was deployed to Iraq in Operation Desert Storm. He earned a national defense service medal and other military honors.
In 1996, he broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house when he was drunk and stole $500 worth of goods. He was convicted of burglary and was deported in 1997 after serving a ten month sentence.
At 19 years old, Marco Antonio Chavez enlisted in the Marine Corps and served for four years.
In 1998, he was convicted for animal cruelty and served 10 months in prison. An immigration judge considered his conviction an aggravated felony, which led to his deportation in 2002.
He moved with his family to Mexico, and his wife, who does not speak Spanish, commuted across the border for work. Eventually his family moved to Iowa, leaving him in Mexico.
Hector Barajas served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from 1995 until he was honorably discharged in 2001. When he returned home to Compton, CA, he struggled to adjust to civilian life. One night, he was arrested for shooting a gun from his vehicle. Even though no one was hurt, he was charged with assault. He pleaded guilty to illegal discharge of a firearm and served two years in prison. Then he was deported to Mexico.
Barajas established the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana to help fellow deported veterans adjust to their new lives. “The Bunker” as it is known, is a two-story apartment covered in military posters and American. flags.
After receiving a heads-up, Fletcher was in Tijuana with Barajas when he learned that the governor had granted his pardon.
“He was stunned, he started crying, he was overwhelmed,” Fletcher said. “He couldn’t believe it. He’s had just years and years of bad news, yet every day he gets out there and tries to help.”
Immigrants who serve in the United States military are eligible for citizenship. All of those who serve often have problems adjusting to civilian life and this should be a consideration. With their pardons and the reason for their dismissed green cards gone, their lawyers will argue that the crucial permit for living and working in the United States should be reinstated
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