Former Marine Marco Chavez could not sleep the night before he was set to cross the border and return to the United States, a country he considers home, after he was deported to Mexico 15 years ago. When Chavez finally walked into the United States through the Tijuana-San Diego border crossing on Thursday, he was speechless and still in disbelief that he had won his battle to regain his permanent US residency, the AP reports. It was an historic day for the Mexican-born father of three, who returned to the US as a grandfather. He is among the few former service members to regain permanent residency out of hundreds of veterans who have been deported. "I can't believe it until now," Chavez said on the California side of the border.
Chavez, whose father told reporters he was grateful to have his son finally home, said it will be an unforgettable Christmas because he will spend it with his family. The return gives hope to the other deported US military veterans, said Nathan Fletcher, a Marine combat veteran whose organization lobbied on Chavez's behalf. "For those of us who have served and fought for this country, we can't rest until they all come home," said Fletcher, among the first to welcome Marco Chavez back. Earlier this year at the request of Fletcher's organization, California Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned Chavez for a 1998 conviction for animal cruelty in a dog beating. Chavez said another person was responsible. Months after he was pardoned, a judge granted Chavez's request to return.