A Mexican-born US Marine who was forced to leave the United States after serving in the Iraq War was granted citizenship.
Daniel Torres returned Wednesday from Mexico, naturalizing the following day — five years after being deported to Mexico.
According to Raw Story, Torres’ family originally came to the US on a visa but stayed in the United States illegally after it expired. Wanting to repay the United States when he came of age, Torres gathered fake documents and joined the US Marine Corps in 2007 during a critical point in the Iraq War.
“I wanted to be able to say that I’d done something for this country,” Torres said. “I wanted to show that I wasn’t an immigrant taking away jobs. I wanted to earn my place in the United States.”
After serving three years as a Marine with a deployment to Iraq, Torres was discovered after he lost his wallet. While he was in the middle of getting new ID cards, Torres’ fraudulent enlistment was discovered. Due to his exemplary service, Torres received an honorable discharge but was not allowed to remain in the Marines.
Attempting to join the French Foreign Legion after being released from the Corps, Torres was denied because of hearing loss suffered in the Iraq war. Out of options, he headed to his birthplace in Tijuana, Mexico, where he began working at a call center while he went to law school in Mexico.
“At the beginning, it was very exciting because I hadn’t seen my family in Tijuana for 10 years,” Torres said. “But once I settled down, I felt that I didn’t fit in with the Mexican culture and the way of thinking. I felt American.”
While in Tijuana, Torres linked up with a lawyer who assists deported veterans. Finding a loophole, attorney Jennie Pasquarella filed Torres’ application for citizenship in late January.
As it turns out, Torres qualified for citizenship under a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows immigrants to become citizens if they served in the US military during wartime. The provision also waives other requirements to naturalize, including being a lawful permanent resident and having to be residing in the US at the time of application.
While Torres is relieved to be an American — both in his heart and on paper — he plans on staying in Tijuana until he graduates law school in December. From there, he plans to move to San Diego, where he will participate in a year-long program to validate his law degree.
“I still can’t believe it,” Torres said. “It’s a big relief for me to be able to finally say on paper that I’m now protected. Now the law is on my side.”
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