SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Part of Robert Vivar’s job is to be on the north side of the border to welcome deported veterans as they return to the U.S. via the San Ysidro Port of Entry, something he has been doing more of lately.

Vivar has spent most of his adult life helping deported U.S. veterans, first in Tijuana and now in California.

He is based in San Diego and works for the Deported Veterans Resource Center and the Deported Veterans Advocacy Project.

Vivar himself finally was allowed to come back in November 2021 after being deported to Mexico years earlier.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC, says it knows of 65 veterans who have been returned to the U.S. out of 400 in its system.

But Vivar believes there are many more in countries such as Mexico.

“The last tabulation was around 500 veterans,” said Vivar. “However, we know there may be thousands out there, many of them who may have not heard about the program to be able to be repatriated or many who are completely discouraged from being deported and they don’t want to hear anything about coming back.”

The veterans lose their lawful immigration status after being convicted of crimes. 

Vivar went on to say that when veterans return, they have been granted humanitarian parole that is good for one year and must be renewed in order to remain in the U.S.

This is something Vivar would like to see change.

“It’s a real struggle to be able to reintegrate to home life,” he said. “What we do know is that in that one two-year period, we need to get them that help they need to make sure they receive all their medical care, they are entitled to health benefits. It’s also important they get their legal issues taken are off and eventually reopen their immigration cases to have their legal permanent residency restored or those that want it to have their citizenship petition expedited.”

Vivar believes politicians need to make this automatic for veterans upon returning to the U.S.

“What’s needed is actual legislation in the lawbooks that allows them to return permanently and one of the ideas is the passing of the Veteran’s Service and Recognition act, which has been reintroduced to the 118th Congress, both parties need to understand this is not an immigration issue, this is a veteran issue.”