Breaking News
More () »

'Dad, welcome back to the United States' | Family reunited with veteran after he was deported 20 years ago

Robert Vivar said this is a Veteran's Day he will always remember.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — There were a lot of tears and hugs at the border on Thursday, as a veterans rights advocate was reunited with his family after being deported nearly 20 years ago.

Robert Vivar was deported to Mexico in 2002, over a shoplifting offense. He's been fighting to return to California ever since. 

The California Supreme Court recently ruled in his favor.

He entered San Ysidro wearing a sweatshirt with the words "Air Force" on it. 

His son, who is also named Robert Vivar, was there waiting for him. They hugged.

"Dad, welcome back to the United States, welcome back," he said tearfully.

It was a moment Vivar Jr. wasn't sure he would ever see.

"You're hoping and you're hoping and it just doesn't happen," he said. "Now it's happening! It's surreal. It's been a while. I've got a ton of emotion right now."

According to Vivar's attorney, nearly 20 years ago his dad was accused of shoplifting Sudafed at a grocery store. He pled guilty to the charge, not realizing it meant he would be immediately deported.

"For almost 20 years he's been fighting to restore his lawful status," said attorney Dane Shikman of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

"For the last few years we've been fighting in the courts, from the state trial courts to the court of appeals, all the way up to the California supreme court to make right that wrong almost 20 years ago," he said.

Though Vivar never served in the military, his son is an Air Force veteran. His grandson currently serves in the Marines. He is passionate about helping deported veterans return to the United States. He is now the director of The Unified U.S. Deported Veterans Resource Center.

"Robert's story is not special, in a sense. So many people have been unjustly exiled from their families people who are as American as anyone standing here," said Shikman.

News 8 asked Vivar about his journey back to San Diego.

"It was an incredible journey, a lot of struggle," he said. 

Both he and his son agreed, this is a Veteran's Day they'll always remember.

"Finally," said his son. "We're super excited. We're going to catch up. It's a wonderful Veteran's Day."

WATCH RELATED: San Diegans celebrating Veterans Day with boat parade starting near Harbor Island (November 2021)

Before You Leave, Check This Out