A deported Marine veteran trying to return to his U.S. citizen partner and two children was denied entry into the United States Monday near the San Ysidro Port of Entry between Tijuana and San Diego by Customs and Border Protection when he asked for parole to enter for a prearranged citizenship interview.

A prior Marine sergeant, Roman Sabal, 58, has spent more than a decade in his country of origin, Belize, after returning in 2008 to seek natural treatments for diabetes, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. When he tried returning to the U.S., it prompted an immigration court case. He said he was unaware that it was scheduled, and the judge ordered a deportation issue in his absence, the Union-Tribune reported.

Sabal initially came to the U.S. on a tourist visa, the Union-Tribune reported. After seeing the U.S. Marine Corps while he was in the Belizean military, he wanted to join. He did not have permission to stay, but made it into the Marine Corps with a fake identity document.

The Union-Tribune reported that he confessed this during boot camp but was told, “Don’t worry about it. You’re a Marine now.”

He served for six years in the Marine Corps and additional years in the Army Reserves, the Union-Tribune reported. Then, he applied to become a U.S. citizen in 1995.

Sabal did try to obtain a visa through the Department of State in 2016 to attend a naturalization interview, Victoria Starrett, Sabal’s attorney, told the Union-Tribune. That request was denied because of Sabal’s deportation order.

Sabal’s legal team expects it will have to file a federal court lawsuit, Starrett said, to get him access to the citizenship process.

Sabal is the father of two U.S. citizen children, the Union-Tribune reported. His 13-year-old daughter had been hopeful she would see her father soon. But that is now on hold.

He is planning to stay a few days in Tijuana for a possible resolution, the Union-Tribune reported. If there is not one, he will start the lengthy and expensive trip back to Belize and try again later.

“Veterans should not be forced to jump through futile hoops when all parties know they will be denied,” Starrett told the Union-Tribune. “This charade should stop here.

Ariana is a reporting intern for Military Times. Her past reporting took her to London, China, South Africa and Chicago. Along with her current beat at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism reporting on education from Capitol Hill, Ariana is a contributing writer and social media manager for Clifton Merchant Magazine.

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