Three deported US military veterans received unexpected news this past Easter weekend when California governor Jerry Brown granted them full pardons. Hector Barajas, Erasmo Apodaca, and Marco Antonio Chávez Medina were deported after serving time for misdemeanors.

Now, these three US vets might be able to come back to the States. Barajas, in particular, waited 13 years to return to the country he proudly served for. 

Hector Barajas arrived in the US from Zacatecas, Mexico when he was seven years old.

As a legal permanent resident, he served in the US Army from 1995 to 2001 in the 82nd Airborne Division. Although Barajas excelled as a soldier, he had difficulty adjusting to civilian life after his honorable discharge.

In July 2002, the Mexican native was sentenced for shooting at an empty vehicle and for being in a car when a firearm was discharged.

Although he served a year in prison, he was handed over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement after his release in 2004.

Barajas was deported to Nogales, Mexico but came back to the US six months later, only to be deported a second time in 2010. After settling in Tijuana, the vet decided to dedicate his time to helping other fellow deported vets adjust to their new lives. 

Vets can go to the Deported Veterans Support House, or “The Bunker,” to get in contact with lawyers, job counseling programs, and a psychologist.

While providing these services, Barajas applied for executive clemency from the California’s governor’s office, which he was granted.

He was overcome with emotion when he was told the good news.

“This is huge,” he said in a Facebook video. “The process will be easier for me to go home to my family. I’m very thankful. I’m still at a loss for words.”

Since his deportation, Barajas has communicated with his family and friends through Skype. He makes sure to speak with his 11-year-old daughter twice a day. 

He thanked California governor Jerry Brown for giving him a chance to return home.

In a statement released through The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, Barajas said:

“There are no words to describe the joy I feel today. I thank God for the grace of Governor Jerry Brown and am eternally grateful to all of those who advocated on my behalf. I have dreamed every day of returning to the country I love. We have taken a big step forward for deported veterans and their families.”

Now, Barajas, and the other two deported vets, can file for a hearing to have their green cards restored. If this goes through, the three men can return to the US and apply for citizenship, according to NBC.