MAURICIO. PHOTO CREDIT: CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, RED CROSS VOLUNTEER
Migration affects the lives of millions across the United States, the Americas, and globally. The Human+Kind project seeks to highlight the stories of migrants in the US-Mexico borderlands and the work of humanitarian organizations to support them, including the work of the Red Cross. For more from this project, please click here.
"I joined the Army in 2000, as soon as I turned 18. I was under the impression I was a United States citizen. I didn’t know. I served over 160 combat missions in Afghanistan.
"In 2006, after re-enlisting, I went home on leave to take care of some personal affairs before heading off to Iraq. I was heading home from the store with a bag of cereal and a gallon of milk for my kids when I was stabbed during a robbery. One guy was holding a golf club and I took it away and beat him with it. The other guy was holding a 10-inch knife. He ended up stabbing me multiple times before he ran away. I chased them, then got back to my car and drove myself to the hospital.
"Both of my lungs collapsed. I was in a coma for a month. I had died and they revived me. When I went on leave, I had only been given a weekend pass and I had to get back to the base. By the time things got straightened out weeks later, I was released from the Army with a General Discharge. It was my second discharge. The first was an Honorable Discharge that I received before re-enlisting.
"After I got home, I got into some things. I had issues with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and I could not function well around others. I drank a lot, I picked fights in bars — wherever I could get in trouble. I got arrested in 2006 and stayed out of trouble until 2010. When I got arrested again, they deported me on the original charge from 2006
"When I got deported, my first thought was to go back — [Mexico] is not my house, it’s not my home. I’m a trained combat veteran. I don’t know this place. It’s strange to me still. When I re-entered the United States in 2010, I got arrested [by the Border Patrol] for re-entry. I served 18 months for that then got deported again.
"I’ve been in Tijuana since 2012. I got my first job in Mexico. I could not work in the United States. I was not well. I had to finally cope. I have a family now — a wife and a baby who’s turning one soon. I want to go home. I want to take them home.
"I have four children in the United States. One of them, my daughter, I haven’t even seen. I don’t think it’s right that as a couple of my buddies have experienced, the government waits until we’re dying so they can let us back into the U.S. so that we can die two weeks later at home and we have to suffer somewhere else until then.
"If I were born on American soil, regardless of the mistakes I had made, (and I’m not making those mistakes anymore), they would just keep me there and keep helping me. I don’t think it’s fair because I sacrificed just as much, if not more, than most people. I don’t think it’s right. I think when people do certain things for their [country], it should entitle them to the benefit of the doubt at least. That would be right.
"[When I was in Afghanistan], I was fighting for the guy fighting next to me. When you see someone who’s better than you go...you start to think that maybe it should have been me [who died instead]. That way, my kids in the United States would not be wondering why I can’t see them. I can’t see them because I can’t cross the border.
"I sacrificed a lot. They sacrificed a lot. Don't you think I sacrificed lives besides my own? My children are American. I fought for their freedom. That’s why when missions came up, and they were short handed, I said I would go. That’s what I came for: to chase the bad guys. Don't you think that this should entitle veterans like me to something? That should mean something. It really should.
"I don’t think my deportation was right. I told them in court that they’re welcome for the freedom they enjoy, thanks to [veterans] like me. I told them they had every right to do what they do to me because someone is not here oppressing them. They said thank you for your service — and then they deported me."