Hector Barajas is a U.S. Army veteran who was deported.
Barajas was born in Mexico but raised since he was seven in the Los Angeles area. In 1992, he became a lawful permanent resident. After graduating from high school, Barajas enlisted in the army in 1995 and could have applied for naturalization at that time, but army recruiters led him to the mistaken impression that honorable service in the military automatically made him a citizen.
During his military career, Barajas reached the rank of specialist and served in the 82nd Airborne Division. He earned numerous accolades and awards, including the Army Commendation Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal. He was honorably discharged in 2001.
Barajas struggled upon his re-entry to civilian life and entered a plea of no contest in 2002 to a charge of shooting at an occupied vehicle. After spending two years in prison and nearly a year in detention, he was deported to Mexico. With his family in the U.S. and difficulties finding employment in Mexico, he re-entered the U.S. and was again deported in 2010 after being pulled over in a traffic stop.
Since that time, Barajas has devoted his life to helping other deported military veterans. He founded the Deported Veterans Support House, which provides housing, social services and legal resources for veterans. He has been a tireless advocate for deported veterans, and his work has earned the support of members of Congress and other state and local elected officials.
In April 2017, Barajas was granted a full pardon in 2017 by Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor issued a statement that said Barajas "has shown that since his release from custody, he has lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character and conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen."
The statement went on to mention Barajas's work with the Deported Veterans Support House and said he "has paid his debt to society and earned a full and unconditional pardon."
Barajas was granted U.S. citizenship and returned to the U.S. in 2018.