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Decorated Army vet was deported, now gains US citizenship

Hector B. was born in Mexico and brought to the U.S. as a 7-year-old. He became a lawful permanent resident in 1992 and enlisted in the Army right out of high school. There, he received both the Humanitarian Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal. He served for six years and was honorably discharged.

He says the recruiters misled him. He believed he would receive U.S. citizenship automatically after he completed his service. He did not.

He lost his lawful permanent resident status after being convicted of shooting at an occupied vehicle. He served two years in prison and almost another year in immigration detention before being deported to Tijuana, Mexico.

He didn't give up, though. Not on helping people, and not on his dream of citizenship. In Tijuana, he founded the Deported Veterans Support House. He also works with lawmakers to increase awareness of the veterans being deported from the United States.

U.S. vets have been deported to more than 40 countries.

Last Easter, California Governor Jerry Brown pardoned Hector. Such pardons are only available to people who have lived crime-free for more than a decade. The pardon reinstates some civil rights but did not guarantee Hector could reenter the U.S. or regain his immigration status.

What the pardon did was give him a chance. He applied for naturalization and completed the civics and English requirements in November 2016. When the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services delayed a decision, he had to file a lawsuit seeking to enforce the 120-day deadline. Finally, the USCIS came through, granting his application for citizenship. He will be sworn in a few weeks from now.

His attorney says the decision "gives hope to other veterans like himself who were deported but are still seeking to come home."

It does give hope. While it's rare to receive a pardon, many immigration challenges can be overcome. If you are dreaming of a permanent home in the U.S. but have barriers in your way, you should consult with a U.S. immigration lawyer. All such consultations are completely confidential.

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