U.S. military veteran Ramon Castro is in the middle of a 2,000-mile trek across the length of the U.S.-Mexico border to draw attention to the plight of U.S. veterans sent back to their countries of birth, some as a result of infractions like drug use that Castro said are associated with mental health struggles.
The U.S. military veteran began his 2,000-mile journey from California, along the U.S.-Mexico border to Texas to protest the deportation of veterans.
"Our goal is to walk from San Diego (in California) all the way to Brownsville (in Texas) to bring awareness to this issue of deported veterans.
And we're hoping, we're pushing for three initiatives.
We're asking the President (Joe Biden) to halt the deportation of war veterans, now.
We're asking for a program to be instituted so that all active military become citizens while in active duty.
And we're asking for a full pardon to bring all these veterans who have been deported home back to the U.S.” It’s an issue very close to Castro - who lived in Mexico briefly as a child - and who served two enlistments in the Marine Corps, including a deployment to Kuwait during the Iraq war.
He said that after his discharge, memories of combat lingered.
So he drank alcohol and found himself getting into bar fights.
Castro says his U.S. citizenship protected him... unlike some of his non-U.S.-citizen service members, with mental health struggles.
Between 2013 and 2018, some 250 veterans were deported or placed in deportation proceedings.
That’s according to a Government Accountability Office report, but advocates say the number may be far higher.
Veteran Hector Barajas experienced the issue first hand: "I was deported for 14 years.
I ended up becoming a citizen in 2018 and we're here to support our deported veterans that we have across the border, with Ramon's journey to get awareness out.
And I've been working on this issue for many, many years and recently the Biden administration said that they were going to bring home deported veterans, so we just want make sure that all deported veterans come home.” U.S. Homeland Security said it’s committed to bringing back unjustly deported veterans and their families, and to ensure they receive the benefits they may be entitled to.