A U.S. military veteran who was deported to Mexico six years ago walked back across the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday proudly wearing his Army uniform and maroon beret to reunite with his family.
Anxious to greet Fabian Rebolledo, 43, across the border in San Diego were his parents, siblings and 18-year-old son, The Los Angeles Daily News reported.
The family returned to their Azusa, Calif. home afterword.
Rebolledo was first deported to Mexico in 2010 after authorities said he cashed a $750 check they believed to be forged. He insisted he received the check for construction work he performed and didn’t know it was fraudulent.
He reentered the country and in 2012, immigration officers picked him up at his parents home and he was deported again.
His battle with the U.S. immigration system received help from the University of California, Irvine Immigrant Rights Clinic and other advocacy groups.
“We fought for this Constitution, not only for our own families but for everybody in the United States so they can walk free,” Rebolledo said. “There are a lot of veterans out there that need our help.”
As a young boy, he grew up near Mexico City where he shared a small home with his family of seven. His older siblings and father came to the United States first and sent for him when he was 13, settling in El Monte, Calif., a city just east of Los Angeles.
The Daily News reported Rebolledo dropped out of college to work before he joined the Army. A recruiter “brainwashed” him into thinking he would automatically become a citizen, he told reporters.
He was a legal resident at the time.
The Los Angeles Times reported Rebolledo was stationed at Fort Bragg and deployed to Kosovo on a peacekeeping mission, where he cleared landmines and the bodies of villagers killed by Serbian forces.
When Rebolledo was deported to Tijuana, Mexico, 2,000 miles from the town where he was born, he slept on the streets before finding housing and support among other deported veterans.
His son Derick, who was 12 when his father left, said “Dad you’re a soldier, you can make it.”
Rebolledo began advocating for others who suffered the same plight and helped create a mural project at the Friendship Park in Tijuana and met and married his wife.
With the passing of California’s Prop. 47 in 2015, a team from the UCI clinic was able to get Rebolledo’s fraud charge downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Three years of paperwork and court petitions followed before his deportation case was thrown out in August and his lawful residency status was restored.
Rebolledo's attorneys are working to recover his veterans benefits and obtain a passport for his wife to bring her to the U.S., the Daily News said.
"Step by step,” Rebolledo said. “But I’m excited for what’s next.”