From Tijuana, Mexico, former United States Army soldier Hector Barajas heard the good news.
He heard he’d been given a second chance in the country he fought to protect.
California Governor Jerry Brown had just handed down pardons to 72 people Saturday — and he was one of them.
“I don’t have a record anymore,” he told FOX 40 out of Sacramento. “I’m a million times more hopeful than I was a couple of days ago.”
“It was very emotional, very emotional. I was in tears for quite a bit of time.”
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He came to the U.S. with his parents when he was 7 years old. A legal resident with a green card, he served in the Army for six years. After his honorable discharge, he was arrested and convicted for discharging a firearm in 2001. After serving three years in prison, he was deported in 2004, leaving behind a daughter who is now 11 years old.
In Tijuana, he founded a support house exclusively for deported military veterans like himself. FOX40 met Barajas there last year, where so far he’s helped more than 300 deported vets get legal or physical help.
“If there is any adherence left in the world to the basic concept of justice, they’ll be returned home,” said Nathan Fletcher, an advocate for deported veterans, and president of the group Honorably Discharged Dishonorably Deported.
While his criminal record has been wiped clean, there’s still no guarantee that the former soldier will be allowed back into the United States. For that to be determined, they must wait for immigration court.
His attorney has already filed a motion.
No matter what happens next, Barajas is part of history.
“We’re the first deported veterans to ever get a pardon from any governor,” he said.