When Hector B. was in the Army, he didn’t apply for U.S. citizenship. He was already a lawful permanent resident, and says that recruiters misled him into believing that citizenship would be automatic after his service. It wasn’t.
Hector was born in Mexico and brought to the U.S. as a 7-year-old. He was raised in Los Angeles and became a lawful permanent resident in 1992. He enlisted in the Army upon graduation from high school and was honorably discharged in 2001. He had received both conduct and humanitarian medals for his service.
Later, however, Hector got into trouble. He was convicted of shooting at an occupied vehicle and spent two years in prison and almost a year in immigration detention. He lost his permanent residency and was deported to Tijuana.
There, Hector became an advocate for others in his position. He founded the Deported Veterans Support House and began raising awareness about the many veterans who have been deported. He works with local politicians and members of Congress to make sure they know that vets have been deported to over 40 countries.
Last year, California governor Jerry Brown pardoned Hector for his crime — he was one of three veterans pardoned for Easter. Only people who have gone crime-free for more than a decade are eligible for these pardons. The pardons reinstate many civil rights such as gun ownership and jury service, but they do not guarantee deportees the right to reenter the U.S.
The pardon did give Hector a chance to apply for naturalization, however, and he did. He passed the civics and English requirements for naturalization in November 2016 and began awaiting a decision. The Administrative Procedures Act guarantees a decision within 120 days.
When it looked like the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would not meet that deadline, Hector filed a lawsuit like any civics-minded person might. He was represented by the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties.
Ultimately, the USCIS agreed to meet the deadline and granted his citizenship application. He will be sworn in a few weeks from now.
Hector hasn’t lived a perfect life; few people have. The decorated veteran has repeatedly overcome adversity and gone on to help others. He deserves his chance.
His story goes to show that the dream of U.S. citizenship may be achievable even after setbacks. If you would like to be a U.S. citizen, you should discuss your situation with an immigration attorney. All attorney-client meetings are strictly confidential.