SAN DIEGO — A deported Marine Corps veteran from Belize has been trying to become a U.S. citizen since 1995 and was recently denied entry to the United States for a scheduled citizenship interview, it was reported Wednesday.
Roman Sabal, 58, came to the San Ysidro Port of Entry around 7:30 a.m. Monday with an attorney to ask for “parole” to attend his naturalization interview scheduled for shortly before noon in downtown San Diego, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Instead, he was turned away even though border officials have the authority to temporarily allow people into the country on parole for “humanitarian or significant public benefit” reasons, according to the newspaper.
Sabal first applied to become a U.S. citizen in 1995 after serving for six years as a Marine and then several more years in the Army Reserves, the Union-Tribune reported. He has two U.S. citizen children and with a U.S. citizen woman, whom he hopes to marry one day.
He initially came to the U.S. on a tourist visa and did not have permission to stay in the U.S. permanently.
After seeing Marines in action during his time in the Belizean military, he came with the goal of enlisting in the Marine Corps and managed to join with a fake identity document, according to the Union-Tribune.
He told the newspaper that he confessed during boot camp and was told, “Don’t worry about it. You’re a Marine now.”
Years after he was honorably discharged, he decided to go back to Belize because he had developed diabetes, and his mother had offered to help him treat it with herbal remedies rather than pharmaceuticals, the newspaper reported.
When he returned to the U.S., his entry triggered an immigration court case.
Sabal never found out about the hearing and a judge ordered him deported in his absence, so when he returned to Belize again in 2008 for more treatment, he found himself stuck there, according to the Union-Tribune.
Sabal and his attorney, Victoria Starrett, crossed onto U.S. soil on Monday and gave Customs and Border Protection officials paperwork detailing his case and his request to enter the country to attend his interview, the Union- Tribune reported.
Starrett told the newspaper that CBP officials waved them to the side then eventually told them to go through Immigration and Customs and Enforcement to request parole, but those officials sent them back to Mexico.
Some ICE officers work out of the port of entry, but it was not clear whether they were involved in the incident on Monday, the newspaper reported.
Starrett told the newspaper that Sabal’s legal team will likely have to file a lawsuit in federal court to get him access to the citizenship process.
Sabal told the newspaper on Monday that he plans to wait in Tijuana for a few days to see if the situation can be resolved quickly, but otherwise he will have to travel back to Belize and try again at a later date.