It was a great party in honor of U.S. veterans at a hip brew house. More than $10,000 was raised and a great time was had by all.
Unfortunately, none of the guests of honor could make it.
They had all been deported.
Local celebrity chefs Claudia Sandoval and Nick Nappi, former contestants on the show Master Chef, lead a team of some of San Diego’s finest chefs at the fundraising dinner at Barrio Logan’s Border X Brewing. Sandoval was the season six champion, while Nappi took fourth. All proceeds were donated to the Deported Veterans Support House, which serves as a refuge for deported U.S. veterans in Tijuana.
The tasting room, which doubles as an art gallery, was decorated in artwork from donor artists and deported veterans. A silent auction featured donated art, wine and weekend trips to Baja wineries.
Rizing Rezistance kicked the evening off with music. Later, actors performed a scene from “Letters from the Wall,” David Rivas’ play inspired by hardships caused by U.S. immigration policy.
Mark Lane, a local refugee and immigrant rights activist, organized the benefit.
“The biggest thing we can do to help them is raising awareness,” he said. “Not many people know we deport our veterans.”
Lane said fundraisers were important to the Deported Veteran’s Support House since it operates on donations only. Proceeds from the Border X benefit would be used to purchase a van for the support house.
Sandoval, a former neighbor of Lane’s, said the issue was important to her.
“It (was) a perfect opportunity to give back and in a way that continues to raise money and raise awareness,” she said.
San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez also attended. He said the plight of deported U.S. veterans echoed larger problems with immigration.
“Families are being ripped apart,” he said. “Then when you take into account the fact that these people were brave enough to serve the way that they did, that just compounds it. This is a prime example of why the laws are so messed up and why they need to be fixed.”
Bishop Dermit Rodgers, a former board member of the human rights organization Border Angels, serves as chaplain for the Deported Veteran’s Support House.
“These are men and women who served honorably and permanent legal residents who committed a crime,” he said. “They’re entitled to (Veterans Affairs) benefits, but can’t access them.”
There is one benefit deported veterans do get, according to Rodgers.
“When they die, they are entitled to burial with full honors,” he said. “They can come back to the United States in a box.”
Border X Brewing has hosted a number of benefits for the community, including a fundraiser for a local charter school and last year’s Chicano Con, an exhibit of Latino comic art staged during San Diego Comic Con.
Owner David Favela said he believes in supporting many of the issues affecting the community.
“We see it as an important part of our mission,” he said.
Offering his tasting room as a venue for fundraisers or as a gallery selling art from neighborhood artists, is, to Favela, just as important as turning a profit.
“We see the brewery not just as a way to sell beer,” he said. “There’s a lot of ways to sell beer. What we love is adding to the fabric of the community.”