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Border & Immigration

Exclusive: Deported Veteran Returns To United States

Deported veteran Andrew De León walks towards the San Ysidro Port of Entry, eleven years after he was deported. Photographed on Friday, June 18th, 2021.
Max Rivlin-Nadler
Deported veteran Andrew De León walks towards the San Ysidro Port of Entry, eleven years after he was deported. Photographed on Friday, June 18th, 2021.

The 78-year-old army veteran, Andrew De León, had lived in the United States for more than fifty years, before he was deported in 2010 for a nonviolent drug offense.

Before crossing the border, De León was joined in Tijuana by other deported veterans, who know him affectionately as Andy.

Exclusive: Deported Veteran Returns To United States
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler

De León had petitioned for years to re-enter the United States to no avail, despite strong support from California officials. But now a recent agreement between the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Biden Administration, allows for people in Mexico who are particularly vulnerable to re-enter the United States.

Immigration Attorney Ian Seruelo helped De León get his application to the federal government.

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“Having him live here, in Tijuana, away from most members of his family, it’s just, again, very unfortunate and sad to even imagine the situation of Andy,” Seruelo told KPBS.

De León was happy for the support he received from fellow deported veterans, who accompanied him to the border.

“I’m glad they were all here backing me up. I wish them all luck, hoping they can get across too,” he said.

The deported veterans marched with DeLeon to the border crossing, through sweltering June heat. A little after 3 p.m., his name was called and he walked into the United States.

De León plans to live with family in Santa Maria California. He has diabetes and other health issues, so he hopes to be able to get some of his army benefits back. He said his goal has always been to return, in any way, to the country he served.