SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Sergio Sandoval was supposed to return home through the San Ysidro Port of Entry last week after having been deported 22 years ago, but his homecoming took an unexpected turn of events, and he ended up in a San Diego County jail.
Upon his entry into the U.S., the Marine Corps vet was notified he had an arrest warrant pending in Nevada.
So instead of crossing the border and being reunited with his family, he was sent to a detention facility while his attorney tried to rectify the arrest warrant.
It took 24 hours, but Sandoval was finally back north of the border in freedom.
“When he got out of the Marine Corps he ended up getting into trouble like many veterans do,” said Robert Vivar, executive director of the Unified U.S. Deported Veterans Resource Center.
Vivar said Sandoval had gotten a DUI, and since he was not a U.S. citizen, he got deported.
“Now come to find out that it looks like the charge he was deported for may not have been a deportable charge,” said Vivar. “Because he didn’t have legal representation during his immigration proceedings, he ended up getting deported.”
Sadly, Vivar says, there are many veterans south of the border and in many other countries who may not know about an assistance program sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security that helps deported vets reunite with their families in the U.S.
The program, which was announced last year and instituted a few months back, can help veterans with free or reduced legal help, VA benefits, and, in some cases, U.S. citizenship.
“A lot of deported veterans have not received information or it has not reached them to help their cases reviewed and the possibilities of coming back home and also receiving the right to veterans’ benefits,” Vivar said.
Vivar believes there are about 50 deported veterans now living in Tijuana alone, and many more scattered worldwide.
“We need more outreach, we really need to not only outreach, but educate our public and deported veterans on this possibility so they can take advantage of it,” he said.
As for Sandoval, he is staying in San Clemente, Calif., with his sister.