Authorities Refuse To Allow Veteran Into U.S. For Scheduled Naturalization Hearing


In case you were still wondering whether immigration policy under the Trump administration was as truly ramshackle as it seemed — here’s a case to confirm your suspicions. Roman Sabal served for six years as a U.S. Marine and several years beyond that in the Army Reserves, but although he first attempted to start the process in the late 1990s — he has been consistently denied citizenship, including via this week getting barred by border patrol agents from entering the United States for a previously scheduled interview surrounding his case. After months of facing unresponsive officials, he and his attorney Victoria Starrett decided to ask in person at the San Ysidro port of entry for Sabal to be temporarily allowed into the U.S. for the interview — and they were denied for reasons that aren’t immediately clear.

At the border, Sabal and Starrett first encountered Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, who eventually waved the pair to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE sent them back to Mexico. Sabal — who has two U.S. citizen children with a U.S. citizen partner — said he would stay in the area for a few days but soon be going back to his home country of Belize. He seems to have been stuck out of the United States for about a decade at this point.

Starrett asserted:

‘Veterans should not be forced to jump through futile hoops when all parties know they will be denied. This charade should stop here.’

When pressed about the case, CBP didn’t even have a straight answer. (ICE didn’t immediately return a request for comment.) They pointed concerned interests to the Department of State, suggesting Sabal should get a visa — although for starters, Sabal has tried that as recently as 2016, and secondly, on Monday morning itself when he and his attorney arrived at the border, CBP pointed them to ICE. The repeated fumbling might be driven by a deportation order against Sabal sparked after he missed a hearing he apparently didn’t even know about ahead of time, The San Diego Union-Tribune notes — although that’s exactly the issue Sabal is currently trying to address, and authorities aren’t letting him.

CBP claimed:

‘His attorney was notified that he should work with the Department of State to obtain the necessary documents for entry rather than seeking parole from CBP.’

Starrett retorted:

‘After refusing to allow Sgt. Sabal to enter the U.S. for his citizenship interview this morning, CBP now tries to pass the blame for its shameful treatment of a former U.S. Marine.’

Ironically enough, Sabal shares that he first confessed to not being a U.S. citizen while in the Marine Corps, which he joined with a fake identity document after experience in the Belizean military. In service, he was told “don’t worry about it,” because he was “a Marine now.” Apparently whoever said that failed to account for the possibility of a spike in racist incompetence on the part of immigration authorities.

Sabal’s case is far from an isolated incident at this point. Just this week, the Trump administration rolled out a plan to hack the U.S. asylum system to bits, hoping to deny protection to almost anyone who passed through a third country on their way here. The American Civil Liberties Union — which has been successful in the past in cases like this — swiftly promised a lawsuit over the move.

Featured Image via screenshot