Meet Daniel Torres. The former U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran finally became a U.S. citizen after self-deporting five years ago.
— Deported Vets Film (@DeportedVets) April 26, 2016
Credit: @DeportedVets / Twitter
Despite being unauthorized to live in the United States, Torres wanted to fight for this country, so he used a false birth certificate to enlist.
Credit: Hector Bajaras / Facebook
“When I enlisted in the Marines, I knew the risks. It was something that could come up; it was something that could come back and hurt me,” Torres told the press outside of San Diego’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ office. “I was just hoping that I wasn’t going to pay for that mistake for the rest of my life. And now I’m able to finally go home and live the life I feel like I need to.”
Torres was forced to leave the country he loved and defended because of a lost wallet.
Credit: Hector Bajaras / Facebook
The Iraq vet went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get his lost ID card replaced, but Torres’s story raised enough suspicion that the DMV notified his superiors. The U.S. Marines discovered his immigration status and gave him an honorable discharge.
Torres originally went to France to fight for the Foreign Legion, but he eventually relocated to Tijuana, Mexico.
According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Torres lost part of his hearing while serving in Iraq, which barred him from serving in the Foreign Legion. As a result, he moved back to TJ, the border city where was born.
It was in Tijuana that Torres got the support from other military vets that were deported after serving.
The Deported Veterans Support House, or “the Bunker,” helps vets adjust to their new country. The organization also provides assistance with food, housing and clothing, while also advocating for legislation that would end the deportation of those who have served.
Living in Mexico didn’t stop Torres from seeking legal status in the country he grew up in. Thanks to a special provision in the 1964 Immigration and Nationality Act, Torres could apply for citizenship because he served during a “time of hostility.”
— Tatiana Sanchez (@TatianaYSanchez) April 22, 2016
Credit: @TatianaYSanchez / Twitter
That’s right. Undocumented people who serve in the military during certain times CAN become U.S. citizens after serving, but they have to serve during a time of hostility. Torres’ case was made easier because he wasn’t deported.
Here are the “times of hostility” that would allow undocumented service men and women to become U.S. citizens if they so choose.
“[D]efending US interest is the one thing I am the proudest of. I did not join the Corps because I wanted an alibi for citizenship, no,” Torres said in an open letter to some haters (seriously). “I will not use my military service as an excuse, I love being a Devildog and I will be one till the day I die. All people who survive know they do so at a risk, the same goes for me; it was a risk to join claiming I was a citizen when I wasn’t, but you know what? I would do it all over again…”
“I just am really, really happy, to be able to finally go home and be here where I feel I belong,” Torres told local media.
BREAKING VICTORY! Formerly Banished Marine Sworn in as a US Citizen. Daniel Torres can now be reunited w/his family! pic.twitter.com/rgq4u0Bx6f
— San Diego ACLU (@SDACLU) April 21, 2016
Credit: @SDACLU / Twitter
“I’ve missed birthdays, Thanksgivings, reunions, weddings, funerals,” Torres continued in his open letter. “I cannot be there now while my mother struggles with chemotherapy. I do not want your pity or to feel bad for me, but I do want you to know, that we are people, good people.”
Way to go, Daniel.
Let’s hope that this conversation will continue so we can help all of our veterans, documented or not.