Marine who was deported to Mexico gets to return to U.S.

A former Marine deported to Mexico 15 years ago after being convicted of a minor offense has won his battle to regain permanent U.S. residency and plans to cross the border Thursday with his parents in an emotional homecoming days before Christmas.

Marco Chavez spent his last day packing clothes and taking a red Radio Flyer wagon out of storage. He used to pull his sons in it when they were young and living in Tijuana following his deportation. He hopes to cross the U.S. border Thursday with the wagon, which he wants as a keepsake.

An immigration judge’s ruling last month allows Chavez to return.

He said he got a break in his case when the American Civil Liberties Union found him a lawyer, which led to Gov. Jerry Brown’s pardoning Chavez for a 1998 conviction of animal cruelty for beating a dog. Chavez had said another person was responsible for the attack.


Brown said Chavez “served our country, earned a pardon and deserves to come back home.”

Chavez was a baby when his parents brought him to the United States. He served four years in the Marine Corps and was honorably discharged. He served 15 months in state prison for his conviction and then was deported in 2002, having to learn Spanish and find work in a land that was foreign to him.

Chavez said his wife found life too difficult in Tijuana. She eventually moved back to the United States, settling with his sons in Iowa after they divorced.

Chavez is now 45, and his sons range in age from 17 to 21. They last visited him in Tijuana in 2013.

His parents, who live in Los Angeles, visited regularly. Chavez plans to live with them while he waits for his residency card. He then will move to Iowa and try to rebuild a relationship with his children.

He hopes to someday become a U.S. citizen.