Mexican Immigrant In The Country Illegally Becomes Citizen After U.S. Military Service

Dniel Torres, who was living in the United States illegally when he enlisted in the Marine Corps by using a false birth certificate, became a U.S. citizen this week.

Torres, who joined the Marines in 2007 and served in the Iraq War, was eligible for citizenship under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allow for people who serve in the military during a period of hostility. It waives other usual requirements for citizenship, such as lawful permanent residence and physical presence in the United States.

Now 30, Torres has been living in Tijuana for the past five years. He was sworn in as a citizen during a 10-minute ceremony in downtown San Diego on Thursday.

Torres was more than three years into his military service when he lost his wallet and had to replace his identification. It was then that his story began to unravel.

After discovering Torres’ status, the Department of Motor Vehicles alerted his superiors. He said he was given an honorable discharge.

“When I enlisted in the Marines, I knew the risks. It was something that could come up; it was something that could come back and hurt me,” he said Thursday outside the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ downtown office. “I was just hoping that I wasn’t going to pay for that mistake for the rest of my life. And now I’m able to finally go home and live the life I feel like I need to.”

After his discharge, Torres voluntarily left the U.S. in 2011. He went to France in hopes of enlisting in the Foreign Legion but was unsuccessful because of the hearing loss he had suffered in Iraq, according to his attorney.

By Tatiana Sanchez for Los Angeles Times
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