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Advocates seek help for U.S. Marine veteran denied at Mexico border

By Sommer Brokaw

July 16 (UPI) -- A U.S. Marine Corps veteran who's been waiting more than a decade to return to the United States has been turned away at the border, officials said.

Belize-born Roman Sabal first applied for U.S. citizenship 25 years ago after stints in the Marines and Army Reserves, but the application remains unapproved. He arrived in the United States on a tourist visa and joined the military in 1987 with a phony ID card. For years, he's eyed a return to the United States to see his two children and get married.

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Sabal visited his native Belize in 2008, but was denied U.S. entry on his return -- due to a deportation order that was issued while he was gone. He was then deported after failing to appear in immigration court. On his way to a citizenship meeting in San Diego Monday, he was denied entry at the border near Tijuana.

Attorney Victoria Starrett said she's spoken with multiple federal agencies, but has not yet received a definitive answer about Sabal's case.

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"Veterans should not be forced to jump through futile hoops when all parties know they will be denied," Starrett said. "This charade should stop here."

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Starrett said as a compromise, she unsuccessfully requested the citizenship interview be held at the port of entry.

"After refusing to allow Sgt. Sabal to enter the United States for his citizenship interview this morning, Customs and Border Protection now tries to pass the blame for its shameful treatment of a former U.S. Marine," Starrett said. "CBP told me that ICE -- not the Department of State -- was responsible. Now apparently they claim it is the Department of State."

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Sabal unsuccessfully tried to secure a U.S. visa in 2016, due to the deportation order.

Advocacy group Public Counsel said it's helping Sabal re-apply for U.S. citizenship based on his record in the military.

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