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December 18, 2017

Landmark legal victory gives hope to hundreds of deported vets

SAN DIEGO — Christmas is coming early this year for one military family, as Marco Chavez, a Marine Corps veteran deported to Mexico in 2002, has won his bid to return home to the country he fought to defend.

"Fifteen years ago my life was upended when I was deported to Mexico, a country I left as an infant,” Chavez said. "I missed the childhood of my three children and I have two grandchildren now I've not met. With the restoration of my legal status, I feel like I’ve been given my life back."

Earlier this year, at the request of the Honorably Discharged, Dishonorably Deported Coalition, Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned Chavez, along with two other deported California veterans, paving the way for them to restore their permanent residency status in the United States or to become citizens.Governor Jerry Brown said, "Marco served our country, earned a pardon and deserves to come back home," of Marco's return home.

Nathan Fletcher, the Chair of the Honorably Discharged, Dishonorably Deported Coalition said, "No one who was willing to die for this country should be deported. In a time when the immigration debate in America seems so dark, Marco Chavez's historic legal victory and return home is a ray of light and hope."

Chavez will return to the United States reunited with his family before Christmas. The date of his homecoming will be announced soon.

Born in Mexico, Chavez was brought to California as an infant. He served in the Marine Corps as a lawful permanent resident before being deported on the basis of a single criminal offense in 2002. After Gov. Brown granted him a full and unconditional pardon for that offense, attorneys moved the San Diego Immigration Court to reopen and terminate his removal proceedings. The court agreed that Chavez's pardon entitled him to return to the United States as a lawful permanent resident.

This victory for Marco is truly historic. Governor Brown's pardon recognized the ongoing punishment of permanent exile that Marco has lived with since his conviction. Brown's clemency has given Marco back his life in the United States, and given his family back their son, their father, and their grandfather," said Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants' rights and senior staff attorney for the ACLU of California.

Pro bono attorneys John Wilson and Allen Rowe of Latham & Watkins represented Chavez in his bid to have his legal permanent resident status restored.

"We were pleased to provide the legal counsel that helped Marco, an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Marine Corps, return home to his family and the country he served," Wilson said.

HDDD was formed in September of 2016 in conjunction with the ACLU and other groups to advocate legislative relief for deported veterans in response to the report "Discharged, then Discarded." The groups advocated for the governor to pardon Chavez ahead of his Easter pardons. His actions represented the first time a governor has recognized the injustice of the deportation of armed forces veterans.

"This is an important step in the right direction, but we must keep fighting to ensure the return of every deported veteran," said Congressman Juan Vargas of San Diego. "Congratulations to Mr. Chavez, and welcome home."