Award-winning documentary highlights stories of deported veterans

UMOJA program brings producer/musician to City College for film screening


Students at San Diego City College gather in front of an RV owned by Manuel Valenzuela, standing center, one of the featured speakers at the screening of the documentary Bring Them Home on Feb. 22, 2022. Photo by Shamere Grimes/City Times Media

Shamere Grimes, Multimedia Reporter

Kevin Martinez, Hector Barajas and Daniel Torres.

Those are the names of three U.S. military veterans who fought for their country, then were deported by it.

Bring Them Home” is an award-winning documentary showcasing the stories of these and several other military veterans who were deported after serving the country they called home.

The veterans didn’t anticipate fighting for their citizenship when they came home from combat.

In Martinez’s case, there was a flag on his passport for missing an immigration hearing while he was serving overseas.

For Barajas, it was a series of crimes tied to his substance abuse that led to a prison sentence and then a deportation hearing.

Torres, who used a false U.S. birth certificate to serve in the Marine Corps, was found out and then deported.

A screening of the documentary featuring the three was hosted by the San Diego City College UMOJA Club on Feb. 22. The producer Rob Walker was also in attendance.

One of the songs used in the film, titled “Excuse my Accent,” was written by Walker.

Walker wanted to give the most honest representation of each veteran’s experience.

“As filmmakers, we’re not here to do anything other than tell the truth,” Walker said.

The film gave many different perspectives on military service, the reasons people choose to serve and the resources available to veterans transitioning to civilian life.

After the screening, former military personnel Manuel Valenzuela and James Smith held a Q&A session for students and faculty.

Valenzuela gave a very emotional depiction of the circumstance he was in right before he was deported.

“I got a removal notice in 2008,” Valenzuela said. “That same night, my mother died and I kept it to myself because I didn’t want to take attention from my mom.”

Smith, a City College alum, shared powerful accounts of his experiences in the military, including the parts of his life that led to his enlistment and how those experiences have shaped who he is now.

“My parents would teach me what my color meant, if I messed up, I messed up for Black people,” Smith said. “In the first 10 minutes of landing on the grinder at the (Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego), the first thing they tell you is, there are no Black Marines, there are no white Marines, there are no brown Marines. There are only green Marines.”

Editors’ note: After a discussion in the newsroom, the staff of City Times represented chose to apply the standards of Associated Press Style in determining whether or not to capitalize the words Black, white and brown in the context of race and culture in this story.