By Esther Yu-Hsi Lee
May 23, 2016
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visited to the U.S.-Mexico border wall in California over the weekend — and met with deported U.S. veteran Hector Barajas, who may not have been sent back to Mexico under Sanders’ policies.
Speaking through the slotted steel border wall division, Sanders thanked Barajas for his service and said that deported individuals should have a chance to come back to the United States.
“I would like you on this side of the border,” Sanders told Barajas.
After he served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, Barajas fired a weapon in an incident with someone — an event that he previously told ThinkProgress was induced by PTSD. That incident led to his arrest, which gave him a 20-year reentry ban. Barajas then received a lifetime ban after he was caught coming back to the United States to see his young daughter.
Now, Barajas runs the advocacy organization Banished Veterans, which helps deported veterans settle into countries that some of them haven’t seen since they were children.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Sanders noted that his visit to Friendship Park — a meeting place in San Diego, California used by U.S. residents to meet with deported family members across the Tijuana, Mexico border — helped him understand “why we need comprehensive immigration reform” and “why we need to have immigration policy designed to unite families” rather than to divide them.
It’s unclear whether Sanders knew about Barajas’ lifetime ban. However, Sanders has indicated in his immigration policy platform that he would “expand the use of humanitarian parole to ensure the return of unjustly deported immigrants.”
During the border visit, Sanders slammed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for supporting an immigration policy platform to deport the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, a charge that Sanders called “immoral.” Among some of his immigration policy proposals, Trump would call for the country’s 11 million undocumented population to be returned back to their home countries and a 2,000-mile long border wall would be fully funded by the Mexican government.
“It’s not only an immoral perspective from my point of view,” Sanders said. “It’s something that should not happen, cannot happen. What we need to do is to recognize the reality of the moment, that we have a broken immigration system.”
Sanders previously visited the Nogales, Arizona border in March.
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