Skip to main content

Deported Veteran Returns To United States

Deported U.S. Marine veteran Marco Chavez receives a hug as he cross the bord...

Photo by Jean Guerrero

Above: Deported U.S. Marine veteran Marco Chavez receives a hug as he cross the border into the United States, Dec. 21, 2017.

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran deported to Mexico in 2002 after being convicted of animal cruelty returned to the United States Thursday.

Marco Chavez, born in Mexico and brought to California as an infant, was deported four years after a 1998 conviction for animal cruelty, for which he spent 10 months behind bars. He had served four years in the Marines.

Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year pardoned the 45-year-old Chavez and two other deported veterans, according to the San Diego-based Honorably Discharged, Dishonorably Deported Coalition, which assisted them in regaining their U.S. permanent residency status, according to the organization.

"They can use me as an example, so it could open the door for other veterans to come back," Chavez told reporters near the San Ysidro Port of Entry. "Hopefully it works, hopefully we bring them all home."

Chavez, who was greeted in San Ysidro by activists, lawyers and his father, said he planned to look for a job immediately. He said he couldn't sleep the night before crossing the border back into the U.S. because he was so excited.

"I was in disbelief," he said. "But I believe it now."

RELATED: ACLU Report Documents Struggle Of Deported Veterans

Chavez's green card status was restored in court earlier this month, said Nathan Fletcher, a county supervisor candidate who is chairman of the coalition.

"No one who was willing to die for this country should be deported," said Fletcher, himself a former Marine who served in Iraq. "In a time when the immigration debate in America seems so dark, Marco Chavez's historic legal victory and return home is a ray of light and hope."

RELATED: Deported US Veterans In Tijuana Prepare To Meet With Members of Congress

His family initially moved with him to Tijuana in an effort to stay together, and his wife, who did not speak Spanish, commuted daily to the U.S. for work. They later divorced and she and their three sons eventually moved to Iowa, according to reports.

"I missed the childhood of my three children and I have two grandchildren now I've not met," Chavez said. "With the restoration of my legal status, I feel like I've been given my life back."

Chavez will move to Los Angeles to live with his parents to give him time to get settled.

The governor also pardoned ex-Marine Erasmo Apodaca, 47, and Army veteran Hector Barajas, 40.

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran deported to Mexico in 2002 after being convicted of animal cruelty returned to the United States Thursday.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.