Lawmakers meet with deported veterans in Tijuana, Mexico

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There's a congressional effort to allow deported veterans back into the United States, and ABC7 traveled with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to Mexico as lawmakers met with the vets. (KABC)

There's a congressional effort to allow deported veterans back into the U.S., and ABC7 traveled with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as lawmakers met with the vets in Mexico.

Mario Rangel served in the 82nd Airborne Division after growing up in Boyle Heights. He said he suffered PTSD in the service, which contributed to an assault conviction.

After serving time behind bars, he was deported to Mexico.

Rangel met Jason Madrid, a fellow deported vet who also grew up in Boyle Heights.

Madrid was brought to America at just 20 days old.

"Thirty-seven years in the United States and to be thrown into a country you don't know anything about, you're a stranger here," he said.

Deported veterans are getting some support in Tijuana in a small house, just a few miles from the border.

Hector Barajas is a deported vet raised in Compton. He founded a support home known as "The Bunker".

"The bunker is a resource where veterans can get housing, they can get VA benefits, they can get their pensions," he explained.

Edwin Salgado showed Eyewitness News small sleeping quarters at the home. He said every night he thinks of his daughter, Paulina, who lives back home in Santa Ana.

Salgado said the separation is unjust.

"I was willing to give up my life for the county and then they just get rid of me when I'm no good for them no more," he shared.

This weekend, a group of Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus visited The Bunker to show support. Among them was Nanette Diaz Barragan of Compton.

"If somebody is going to enlist to serve our country, they should be given citizenship. That's the simple answer," she said.

Not everyone agrees, including Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

"You have to stay out of legal trouble. You can't go out and commit crimes in the United States. If you do, you are subject to deportation," Mehlman said.

Congressman Lou Correa of Santa Ana said it's not that simple.

"We shouldn't tolerate lawbreakers. The issue is should they pay for that crime twice? The answer is no," he said.

As the veterans wait every day for congress to act, Rangel is stuck in Mexico, separated from both of his kids and his combat buddies.

"I didn't give the ultimate sacrifice, but being down here, I wish I would have," he said. "...Over here, it's like we died. We got thrown away and that's even worse."

Related Topics:
politicsimmigrationimmigration reformdeportationICEcongressPresident Donald TrumpveteransComptonLos Angeles CountySanta AnaOrange CountyBoyle HeightsMexicoTijuana
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