SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Yolanda Varona was deported nearly 12 years ago and spent that time in the city of Tijuana hoping to see her family once again.
As technology got better, she spoke with her daughter and grandkids online and on the phone.
But she yearned to touch them and speak to them face to face.
During her time south of the border, Varona founded Dreamer Moms in Tijuana as a way to help others who were facing similar obstacles and frustrations.
“It was lifesaving for me,” Varona said.
She also went to work supporting deported U.S. military veterans, and that’s where she met Hector Barajas, who was making a name for himself along the border for his work with vets.
The two fell in love and married two years ago.
Barajas had already been cleared to cross the border but, for the most part, lives in Tijuana with Varona.
“We were able to find each other able to support each other,” said Barajas. “Now we’re home together as a couple and you know, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.”
Barajas told Border Report his failing health played a role in Varona being allowed back into the U.S.
Their attorney argued that Varona, as Barajas’ wife and caretaker, needed to be with her husband north of the border to help with medical appointments and other needs.
A judge agreed and cleared the way for Varona to return to the U.S. on Friday morning.
“My body was in Mexico but my heart and my feelings and everything was over here,” said Varona. “I was empty at the other side and now I feel full and happy, I want to cry and I want to jump, I’m really happy and grateful.”
As Varona walked out of the border crossing, she was ambushed by family and friends who wanted to hug her and welcome her home.
The biggest embrace came from her daughter Paulina.
“I haven’t touched her and felt her for a while so it was kind of surreal,” Paulina said. “But it felt normal, it didn’t feel like 12 years had passed by.”
For the time being, Varona and Barajas will live with relatives in El Cajon, Calif., on the east side of San Diego County.
But on the way home from the border, Varona said they planned on stopping at an In-N-Out Burger for some burgers and fries.