Many politicians and even several presidential candidates have visited U.S.-Mexico border to talk about immigration or border security.
But Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders generated buzz this past weekend when he actually walked up to the border fence and told a deported veteran on the Mexican side that he wanted him on the U.S. side.
Hector Barajas, an activist who has pushed for deported U.S. service members to be allowed back in the country, called out to Sanders during his border visit and identified himself as a former soldier in the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division.
“Thank you very much for your service to this country,” Sanders said. “And we would like you on this side.”
Barajas, 39, is a convicted felon – he fired a gun during an altercation – who after getting deported established the Deported Veterans Support House in 2013. Barajas has a lifetime ban from re-entry to the U.S. after he was caught in the country visiting his daughter illegally.
It isn’t clear if Sanders was aware of Barajas’ immigration status when he exchanged words with him. The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to requests from Fox News Latino seeking comment. The deported veteran also attended Sanders’ last visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona.
In a Spanish-language video interview after the event, Barajas told journalist Jorge Nieto that getting Sanders’ verbal support was “great.”
"In Nogales, the Secret Service didn’t let us get close," he said, "so it was very cool that he got so close here, because we could basically touch him.”
Barajas has said that there are an estimated 12,000 military veterans who have been deported by the U.S. government.
During Sanders' tour of Friendship Park, which is used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents as a place where families that have been separated by deportation can meet up, the candidate also spoke about the importance of reforming the country’s broken immigration system.
“All of this tells us why we need comprehensive immigration reform,” he said after hearing the stories of people who gathered there.
Sanders – who trails former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the delegate count, but has vowed to take his campaign fight all the way to the Democratic National Convention in July – also took the opportunity to criticize the immigration proposals of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, who has made building a border wall a linchpin of his campaign.
"It’s not only an immoral perspective from my point of view,” Sanders said, according to his campaign. “It’s something that should not happen, cannot happen. What we need to do is to recognize the reality of the moment, that we have a broken immigration system.”