Upside-down flag mural for deported veterans may be repainted

Posted at 5:05 PM, May 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-18 16:16:36-04

SAN YSIDRO (KGTV)-- Activists for deported veterans are concerned as US Customs and Border Patrol agents call artists, asking them to paint over their work.

On the Mexico side of Friendship Park, inside Friendship Circle, an upside-down American flag with white crosses for stars, stands as a reminder, bringing awareness to deported veterans and the difficulty they face.

"It's like an SOS in the military if you're being overrun by the enemy, and part of that was you know, we need help," Advocate Hector Barajas said.

"I think veterans should do their time, or should receive some kind of treatment instead of getting deported, you know if you get in trouble," he said. Barajas said the veterans who were deported were convicted of a crime and not citizens of the U.S. Back in the days of the Vietnam War, Barajas said the U.S. took anyone who was willing to fight.

In Tijuana, Barajas not only co-founded the mural in 2013, he's helped 375 deported veterans in Mexico, from 40 different countries. His shelter and resource center, Deported Veterans Support House, provides food, clothing and shelter, as they transition to life in Mexico.

Barajas was a deported veteran himself, and seeing that flag gave him hope.

On the other side of the flag are names of deported veterans, some have "RIP" painted next to their names.

Instead of stars, the flag has white crosses. "The crosses of people who made the sacrifice for others to seek the American dream but we've also had others who have died on this side of the border," Barajas said.

That part of the mural is what US Customs and Border Patrol is focusing on, according to Barajas, "they asked me if I could paint it to paint away the stars so it didn't look like an American flag."

US Customs and Border Patrol released this statement:

Barajas told the agent he doesn't maintain the mural and washed his hands of the issue. Though he was upset that so much attention has been pointed at this particular mural, "it should be free speech I should you know be able to do anything with that flag," he said.

The federal government owns the border wall, as well as the immediate area in front of the wall.