Press Releases

October 27, 2020

Deported Veteran Prevails in Federal Lawsuit, Becomes US Citizen

For Immediate Release: October 27, 2020

 

Media Contact: Rekha Radhakrishnan, 832-628-2312 rradhakrishnan@publiccounsel.org 

 

DEPORTED VETERAN PREVAILS IN FEDERAL LAWSUIT, BECOMES US CITIZEN

Marine officer who served during Persian Gulf Conflict is one of thousands of service members with valid claims for citizenship disregarded by federal immigration policy

EL PASO, TEXAS – October 27, 2020 – This morning Roman Sabal, a deported United States Marine Corps veteran, successfully completed his naturalization interview, marking the end of an immigration process he initiated decades ago. Public Counsel and Latham & Watkins LLP filed a lawsuit against the federal government in the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of Sabal, who was eligible to become a U.S. citizen, but who had been blocked from completing the process by the federal government.

“We are thrilled that Roman will finally be able to return home as a U.S. citizen. Despite a decades-long process, Roman never gave up the hope of coming home to his family,” said Helen Boyer, staff attorney at Public Counsel. “But it should not take a federal lawsuit to force the government to adjudicate the citizenship applications of those who have served in uniform. Deported veterans deserve better.”

Because Sabal was an active-duty marine who served honorably during a designated period of hostilities, he was eligible to become a naturalized U.S. citizen under the Immigration and Nationality Act. However, over the course of 25 years, he encountered numerous difficulties obtaining citizenship including recently scheduled naturalization interviews in the U.S., which were impossible for him to attend because he was not allowed to enter the U.S.

In addition to his military service, Sabal also built a family in the U.S. with his long-term partner of nearly 25 years who is a U.S. citizen. Together they have two children who are also U.S. citizens.

“We are very excited that Roman will soon be reunited with his family and has finally gained the benefits of U.S. citizenship—benefits that he worked to protect during his service as a marine,” said Dylan Glenn, an associate at Latham & Watkins, who worked on Sabal’s case alongside Latham partner Robert Collins and associates Caitlin Dahl and Kirsten Lee. “We are delighted to have helped Roman navigate this process and to see the law working as it should.” 

Current immigration policy requires service personnel with uncertain immigration status to clear several hurdles, including an enhanced background screening process that can take over one year and requiring active duty status where naturalization was once granted upon enlisting. In 2019, naturalization rates dropped 43% from the previous year for service members. For veterans like Sabal, who were deported from the U.S., the path is even harder. 

“While the law provides a clear path to citizenship, the government has failed in its duty to make that path accessible to deported veterans,” said Talia Inlender, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney at Public Counsel. “By failing to perform basic functions—including background checks, interview scheduling, and timely decision making—the government routinely denies deported veterans their rights under the citizenship laws.”    

Roman Sabal served in the Belize Defense Force before entering the United States and serving honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps and Army National Guard. In the last 100 years more than 760,000 immigrants earned a pathway to American citizenship through their service.

“Becoming a U.S. citizen is something I have dreamed about for almost three decades,” said Roman Sabal. “I am so happy to be able to return to the country I love and to reunite with my family.”

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