LA JOLLA, Calif. -- “I served in the United States Marine Corps,” were some of Jose Solorio’s final words, recorded in a cell phone video, before he was able to get access to the care his family believed he deserved and did not get since he was deported.
Solorio is a retired Camp Pendleton Marine.
He joined the service and fought for the U.S. even though he was a Mexican national living in the U.S. as a permanent resident, not a citizen.
After being honorably discharged, Solorio had a run-in with the law over a drug charge.
The veteran, who had lived in San Diego since the age of 3, was deported to Mexico in 2001.
Since then he developed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which is terminal.
“I can’t believe the federal government would do this to someone like my dad,” said Jose Solorio Jr.
The veteran’s family said even though Solorio served this country, he went years without having access to medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs because of his deported status.
“There are dozens upon dozens of these cases, probably hundreds,” said Senior Staff Attorney with the San Diego American Civil Liberties Union, Bardis Vakili.
“And in many of these cases, many of these crimes that are deportable are controlled substances crimes that can be traced to issues involving mental health and service,” said Vakili.
Recently, in an unprecedented move, Customs and Border Protection officials granted Solorio a 60-day humanitarian visa, allowing him to enter the U.S. and seek treatment at the VA in La Jolla.
“He’s receiving great care, but it may be too late,” said Solorio Jr. "I just wish speaking out helps spread awareness and bring justice to veterans like my dad. This is a travesty that could’ve been prevented if he had access to care sooner,” said Solorio Jr.