Raul Rodriguez, 54, worked as a U.S. Customs And Border Protection agent for nearly two decades. After deporting thousands of people throughout his life in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, he received news that tore his world apart.

After deporting people for decades, Rodriguez found out he was undocumented, too

Rodriguez found out his U.S. birth certificate was fake, and he was actually born in Matamoros, Mexico. He had somehow gone through his life with that same birth certificate, joining the Navy and working as an immigration agent — without anyone noticing.

The news changed everything for him: as per The Los Angeles Times, he was fired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2019, and was forced to refinance the home he shares with his wife Anita. It is unknown whether he will keep his Social Security benefits, and he can’t go past a Border Patrol checkpoint.

While “years” of federal background checks linked to his job never found out the truth, it actually came down to Rodriguez helping his brother. The agent helped his brother in Mexico file a visa application, sending in his birth certificate. In April 2018, investigators showed him his real, Mexican birth certificate, which shook Rodriguez to his core. “It was my worst fear.”

So how could something like this happen? The agent’s father admitted to him that Rodriguez was actually undocumented, and someone had doctored a fake U.S. birth certificate for him — which he never knew about. As per L.A. Times, this has happened for “generations,” with Mexicans on the border using fraudulent U.S. birth certificates in order for their children to attend U.S. schools.

As per the outlet, midwives sign off on these birth certificates. For example, the midwife that signed Rodriguez’s paperwork signed several others before her 2005 death.

The agent’s entire life changed, losing his job and sending him into limbo

As anyone could imagine, the news hit Rodriguez like a truck: “That day will never leave my mind… It’s a terrible feeling.” After getting confirmation alongside federal investigators from his father that he was actually undocumented, U.S. Customs and Border Protection fired him — but gave him three years to return to work… upon attaining citizenship.

At that point, the agent tried to get U.S. citizenship through his wife, a Homeland Security immigration officer from Whittier, CA. However, they denied his application, citing how he “falsely claimed” citizenship in the past, and illegal voting.

Meanwhile, investigators couldn’t find any proof Rodriguez knew about the fake birth certificate, so no charges were pressed against him. However, he is out of a job — and currently lives on disability benefits dating back to an injury sustained while serving in the Navy.

As Rodriguez told CNN, losing his job led him to get a tattoo of a Mexican flag splitting apart his agent badge. He told the outlet, “Being a Mexican citizen broke my career and tore it apart.”

Rodriguez’s life is still “pending”

The former agent had an immigration court hearing back in November 2022, with the judge ruling that they would grant him cancellation of removal. Still, years could pass before Rodriguez has any documented proof of his legal status. For now, his legality in this country — and his entire life — is “pending.”

Deportation was a major risk for Rodriguez’s life, mostly because of all the potential enemies he could have beyond the border. He told NPR, “I have too many enemies in Mexico. I’ve done undercover work with the cartels – many deportations, many asylum cases, many visa cancellations.”

Moreover, Rodriguez’s situation greatly affected his oldest son as well. Raul Jr. Rodriguez was born in Matamoros, and became a citizen through his father’s own citizenship — the news put his own status in jeopardy, too.

Today, Rodriguez sees what happened as almost a part of his destiny: he told CNN, “It started off as a nightmare… But then it turned out to be – holy moly – this is what I was meant to do.”

Rodriguez used to help deport people — now he helps bring them back

He seems to be referring to his current work helping deported veterans. Yes, after spending nearly two decades deporting thousands, he now helps people come back.

Vice president of Repatriate Our Patriots Diane Vega read about Navy veteran Rodriguez’s case, and couldn’t believe it. She reached out, and currently helps him through proceedings after so many “turned their back” on him.

Now, Rodriguez volunteers with Repatriate Our Patriots, lending his knowledge about all things immigration to the deported veterans they assist.

As he sees it, he was “blind” before, and “didn’t see what was going on” with this country’s immigration system. He’s still adamant about following laws, but sees the need for change.

He explained, “I’ve been on both sides, and I sympathize with them even more now because of what I went through.”