EL PASO, Texas -- It has been two months since former navy veteran Frank De La Cruz was allowed to come home to El Paso after being deported and spending about 20 years in Juárez due to several drunk driving violations.
It has been a whirlwind eight weeks for De La Cruz as he works to reclaim his life in the United States by getting back his right to drive and perhaps more importantly, getting back his right to vote.
“I was just so happy and excited to be able to have that right and for the first time in my life I voted," he said.
However, he often looks back across the border to his fellow vets who are still stuck there.
“I feel like I need to help them as much as I can and eventually I will.”
He is referring to veterans like Michael Evans, a former marine who in 2009 was just two weeks away from himself becoming a United States citizen when he was indicted on drug charges, put on a bus to Mexico and has been stuck there now for eleven years.
“When you first get deported you feel like it is a death sentence," he said. "It certainly is a life sentence but also you feel like it is a death sentence.”
But for deported veteran support groups still operating in Juárez and other communities in Mexico, life goes on and so does their work helping others.
“We do stuff for the community," Evans said. "We gather donations and we do things for not just veterans but for anyone who needs help."
Those deported veterans are largely non-violent offenders who served with honor and De La Cruz wants them to get the same opportunity he did.
“We got to keep on pushing to bring them back," said De La Cruz. "Yeah, we made mistakes, but we were not tolerated because we are not citizens. We are a brotherhood of veterans, of deported veterans.”