By Manuel Ayala
More than 40 military veterans deported to Mexico from the United States told EFE that they remain hopeful the government in Washington will allow them to return to the country for which they risked their lives.
Most of them were expelled from the US for minor criminal offenses after serving their adopted homeland in places such as Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Roberto Vivar, executive director of Unified US Deported Veterans, said that thanks to his Tijuana-based organization, some of the deportees have been able to obtain some of the benefits they earned with their service.
For many of the deported veterans, their brushes with the law resulted from substance abuse that was in turn a consequence of what they experienced in war.
“Because when they returned from their military service, and on having difficulties integrating into civilian life, it turned out that their only recourse to alleviate the nightmares, the images of war, was by self-medicating and that caused them legal problems,” Vivar told EFE.
All of the veterans his organization encounters show signs of anxiety and desperation, he said, and the first step in helping them is offering them the opportunity to become part of a community.
“Also, we help them get housing, to obtain documents and be able to work, as well as to see what benefits they are eligible for and seek some type of migratory relief that aids in their repatriation,” Vivar said.
He pointed out that most of the deported veterans are people whose parents left Mexico when they were very young, so they spent most of their lives in the US.
“To be held in detention centers and later to be deported to the country where they were born, but which in reality they don’t know, is a complete shock,” Vivar said.
Hector Lopez Guillen was deported from the US in December 2006 and has never stopped trying to get back to the country he considers home.
“When I arrived (in Mexico) it was very difficult, because I grew up in the United States since I was 3 years old, and it’s difficult above all to receive the racism of my own people, because they don’t want me here,” he told EFE.
“They said I am not a Mexican, I am a ‘pocho’ (a derogatory term for Mexican-Americans) and that is one of the hardest things,” he said.
Regarding the US, Lopez Guillen said that he struggles to understand “why the country that doesn’t want me says that I can be buried there for my service to the country, but I can’t live there.”
Vivar said that under President Joe Biden, who took office in January 2021, new avenues have opened for the return of deported veterans.
He pointed to the possibility of obtaining US citizenship or reinstatement of permanent residence via the mechanism of humanitarian parole.