By CBSLA Staff

ARTESIA (CBSLA) — A Marine Corps veteran, who after being deported to Mexico following a misdemeanor crime nine years ago, now has American citizenship and is back with his family in Southern California.

“I feel at home. This is my home,” Ocegueda said. “When they deported me, I cried when I crossed the border. Now, I cry out of joy. It’s the total opposite. I feel good. I feel like an American.”

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53-year-old Hector Ocegueda left Mexico as a child and was forced to return there after a conviction for intoxicated driving.

Ocegueda spent nearly the last decade living in Mexico, but on Friday was able to return home to Artesia.

His citizenship oath was administered in a federal courtroom in Los Angeles on Friday.

Under U.S. law, immigrant veterans with honorable standing can become citizens if they meet certain requirements.

As part of the process, Ocegueda was scheduled for an interview in L.A. but authorities wouldn’t let him cross the border due to his deportation order.

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So, Ocegueda sued and asked for his interview on the border or that he is allowed to enter the U.S. for the purpose of having his interview.

The latter was granted and that’s what brought Ocegueda to the moment of finally returning home.

Ocegueda served in the Marines from 1987 to 1991 and was honorably discharged. During his military service, he was stationed at Camp Pendleton and in Japan.

Under President Joe Biden, U.S. officials are working on removing barriers for noncitizen military members and veterans to gain eligibility to become American citizens.

The ACLU estimates there are dozens of other veterans in a similar position as Ocegueda.

Ocegueda, who had a drug problem and went through a treatment program, said his goal now is to go back to become a nurse assistant and work with veterans.

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