Lawmakers Travel To Mexico To Meet Deported Vets Who Don’t Have Access To VA Care
When five members of Congress traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, on Friday, they met U.S. veterans, many of them with mental illness or physical issues — all deported and unable to access their federal benefits.
The congressmen, members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, listened to the veterans’ stories with the intent to return to Washington and suggest ways to connect them with Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation, health care and other services available to honorably discharged veterans.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., who led the delegation, is calling for urgency.
73-year-old Vietnam War veteran Jose Francisco Lopez holds pictures from his time in the Army. Lopez was deported to Mexico in 2004.
“Both the VA and Congress need to act quickly,” he said. “These veterans have a right to service-connected disability, to medical care and to education. They don’t have access to a VA-provided medical provider; they can’t receive physical and mental health care. I think many Americans would be astonished to learn of their situation.”
Takano, along with Reps. Lou Correa, D-Calif., Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., Norma Torres, D-Calif., and Gregorio Sablan, I-Northern Mariana Islands, spoke with veterans at the Deported Veterans Support House, founded by 82nd Airborne veteran Hector Barajas-Varela.
Like the other veterans at the support house, Barajas-Varela was honorably discharged from the U.S. military but deported in 2009 after being convicted of a crime. Servicemembers are automatically eligible for American citizenship, but many never follow through on their naturalization paperwork – some because they don’t realize it’s not automatic.
Barajas-Varela has spent years advocating for deportation reversals for U.S. veterans. But during the delegation’s visit last week — conceding he and the others may never return to America — he fought for improvements to their situation in Mexico.
“We can’t go home. Some of us may never go …read more
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