County supervisors OK Vet Connect station in Tijuana

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U.S. Army veteran Hector Barajas (L) and deported U.S. Marine Corps veteran Alex Gomez take in a view of the city on July 3, 2017 in Tijuana, Mexico. The Deported Veterans Support House, also known as “The Bunker” was founded by deported U.S. Army veteran Hector Barajas to support deported veterans by offering food, shelter, clothing as well as advocating for political legislation that would prohibit future deportations of veterans. There are an estimated 11,000 non-citizens serving in the U.S. military and most will be naturalized during or following their service. Those who leave the military early or who are convicted of a crime after serving can be deported. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved placing an office across the U.S.-Mexico border to help deported veterans receive federal benefits.

The county will open a San Diego Vet Connect station at The Bunker in Tijuana, Mexico, a facility founded by U.S. Army veteran Hector Barajas, who is now a U.S. citizen.

The board also voted in favor of a staff feasibility study on the project, which would expand an existing program offered at five county libraries.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher proposed establishing a Vet Connect station in Mexico last December.

“The respect and dignity our veterans deserve knows no borders,” Fletcher said after Tuesday’s meeting. “With the board’s action today, deported veterans will soon have access to benefit counseling, housing assistance, Veterans Administration care, state veterans’ homes and employment opportunities — services they are owed for defending our country.”

Before he and his fellow supervisors voted, Fletcher said most Americans “are shocked and surprised” that federal authorities are deporting honorably discharged veterans, a policy that has been carried out for many years.

According to information provided by the county, establishing a Vet Connect station with a secure internet connection would provide access to veterans services to 4,500 veterans living in the Baja California region, regardless of their citizenship status.

The project could cost up to $27,000 in fiscal year 2019-20 and an estimated $4,000 in ongoing costs annually beginning in the 2020-21 fiscal year, according to the county.

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