SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The faces of 24 U.S. military veterans are part of a mural now on display near Chicano Park just east of Downtown San Diego. All have been deported and remain exiled in countries around the world including Mexico, Kenya and Costa Rica.
It’s common for non-U.S. citizen veterans who were convicted of a crime to be deported back to their countries of birth.
“(The mural) represents bringing our brothers and sisters back home,” said Libier Jimenez, who is part of the Leave No One Behind Mural Project.
Jimenez also runs the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in San Diego’s Barrio Logan.
“The mural represents fixing an injustice,” she said.
On Monday, the mural was “re-dedicated” since the original was damaged by the weather last year.
“We have framed it and it will have a plexiglass to protected it from the elements,” said Robert Vivar, an advocate for deported veterans.
Vivar himself was finally allowed back in the U.S. last November after spending nearly 20 years in Tijuana, Mexico following his deportation.
“What I see is heroes,” said Vivar about the mural. “They were not born here, they were ready to give their lives for their new adopted country.”
Vivar is hopeful new legislation now being discussed in Washington will expedite the return of all deported veterans.
“Many people were discarded, exiled to a country that most of them had no knowledge because they left at a very young age,” Vivar said.
One deported veteran Vivar pointed out is Jose Luis Cardenas, who is on the verge of returning home to California.
“He was born in Mexico but he was raised in San Diego. Jose was with the 82nd Airborne, Vietnam-era vet who continued to serve for quite some time,” Vivar said.
According to Vivar, Cardenas was convicted of a drug crime 11 years ago and was deported.
“He made one mistake and has been paying for it,” said Vivar. “His son is in the military and so is his grandson, his family is committed to serving this country.
Vivar told Border Report 30 murals depicting deported U.S. veterans have gone up across the United States.
“What people should see when they walk by and see the faces of the deported veterans, is the need to bring their voice to the government in congress to the senate to make sure we continue to support and raise awareness to change laws to bring deported veterans home.”