Hector Barajas-Varela, a U.S. military veteran, was deported more than 12 years ago. In 2018, he was granted U.S. citizenship. On Tuesday, he plans to vote for the first time ever as a U.S. citizen.
Telemundo 20 captured photos of Barajas-Varela at the San Ysidro Port of Entry early Tuesday morning, waiting for his turn to cross the U.S.-Mexico border so he could head to the polls and cast his ballot in the 2020 Presidential Primary. He planned to travel to Los Angeles and vote there. Here are photos of Barajas-Varela at the border crossing.
Hector Barajas-Varela was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and arrived in the U.S. with his parents when he was 7 years old. He grew up in the U.S. and enlisted in the Army in 1995. During his time as a servicemember, he earned many accolades, including the Army Commendation Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal. He was honorably discharged in 2001.
Following his discharge, Barajas-Varela said he had a rough time adjusting to civilian life. He said he became addicted to drugs and in 2002, was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading no contest to shooting at an occupied vehicle.
When he was released from prison, he was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Barajas-Varela was then deported to Nogales, Sonora, back to his native Mexico.
Barajas-Varela made his way back to the U.S. and was deported for a second time in 2010. He settled in Tijuana, Mexico, and began working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in San Diego to launch a health clinic for other deported veterans. Barajas-Varela received a full pardon from Gov. Jerry Brown in December 2017; the Army vet was naturalized in April 2018.