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Deported father reunites with son on Veterans Day

It was a Veterans Day for the books for a father and son who were reunited in San Ysidro after being separated for nearly two decades.

A long embrace with his son standing on American soil is the one gift Robert Vivar wanted to give his veteran son on Veterans Day.

After winning a legal battle that lasted nearly two decades, Vivar was able to restore his lawful status in California and come back home.

His son, Bobby Vivar, an Air Force veteran, said there were times he doubted this day would come, but his dad never lost faith.

“I can't wait to see him and for my granddaughters to see him and hug him and be with them because he missed a lot,” Bobby Vivar said.

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Alexandra Rangel
Robert Vivar hugs his son Bobby Vivar after crossing the San Ysidro Port of Entry on Nov.11, 2021.

From birthdays to holidays, Vivar missed years with his family after he was deported to Mexico.

A 2017 state law that allows people to vacate convictions if they pleaded guilty without knowing that their immigration status would be impacted helped Vivar return to the United States.

Vivar was pleaded guilty to shoplifting in 2002. At the time, his lawyer didn’t tell Vivar that pleading guilty would get him deported, said Dane Shikman, one of two pro-bono lawyers representing Vivar.

“Robert was shoplifting some Sudafed from a grocery store,” Shikman said. “It was worth about $100 and as a result pleaded guilty to a conviction not knowing it would result in his immediate deportation. For almost 20 years he’s been fighting to restore his status.”

While living in Tijuana, Vivar helped other deportees adjust to life in Mexico. He became co-director of the U.S. Deported Veterans Resource Center and advocated specifically for deported veterans.

Vivar’s case serves as an example to other deportees.

“Hundreds, if not more” people have been deported under similar circumstances," Shikman said.

“So many people have been unjustly exiled from their families,” he said. “People who are as American as everyone standing here.”

Robert Vivar did not serve in the armed forces but was raised in a military family.

“We care for our families," Vivar said. "That’s why I got so involved with deported veterans because even though they were not my blood they are our family as well.”

While his case is now resolved, he said he will not stop fighting for veterans who were deported.

“Just like our logo on our shirt, leave no one behind. We don't leave no one behind. We’re gonna go back for them,” he said.