SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A U.S. Marine veteran deported to Mexico in 2002 is set to return to the U.S. Thursday.
Marco Chavez, 45, born in Mexico and brought to California as an infant, was convicted of animal cruelty in 1998. He spent 10 months behind bars before being deported.
Supporters believe Chavez should have never been deported because he should have received citizenship thanks to his military service. Chavez was never given citizenship though.
Chavez served in the U.S. Marine Corps. for four years before being honorably discharged.
"I grew up in Southgate; went to San Gabriel Elementary, Southgate Junior High, Southgate High School, graduated then joined the Marine Corps," Chavez said.
After being sent to Mexico, Chavez had to learn fluent Spanish.
His family moved to Tijuana with his in an effort to stay together. His wife, who didn't know Spanish as well, commuted to and from the U.S., though they later divorced, City News Service reported.
Community organizations have been working for years to gain Chavez reentry to the U.S.
This year Governor Jerry Brown pardoned Chavez and two other veterans: Marine veteran Erasmo Apodaca, 47, and Army veteran Hector Barajas, 40.
Chavez said he was "surprised and anxious and happy all at once" after receiving the news he could return.
Chavez headed to L.A. to be with his parents. He has a green card and says he hopes to one day become a U.S. citizen.