Many people in California and across the country were troubled by a deportation case involving a veteran of the Afghanistan war. The man, a US Army veteran, re-entered the country from Mexico on Sept. 23, 2019, nearly a year and a half after his deportation in March 2018. He is now pursuing his goal of citizenship after entering the country draped in one American flag and holding another in his hand. His deportation made headlines nationwide in 2018, especially as he had previously served two tours in Afghanistan in the army. He was forced to leave after his initial citizenship application was denied.
Federal immigration authorities cited the man’s 2010 felony drug conviction, saying that it made him ineligible for naturalization. The man argued that post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his experiences in the military led to his drug addiction and the circumstances leading to his conviction. After widespread reports about the reason for his deportation, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker pardoned the man for the initial drug conviction. U.S. Customs and Border Protection gave the man a 14-day parole, allowing him to enter the country. He will have an appointment with immigration officials to pursue his citizenship claim.
His lawyer said that he is hoping for a quick resolution of his naturalization claim. If it takes longer than two weeks, the man will need to return to Mexico. However, he could request extension of parole in order to stay in the country while his application is processed. The man lived legally in the U.S. since he was 8 years old along with his parents, both of whom are citizens.
Criminal convictions can interfere with people’s road to naturalization and citizenship. People who are concerned about their applications to become U.S. citizens may consult with an immigration law attorney about their options to protect their rights.