A former US border patrol agent who routinely deported people before he learned that he was an undocumented immigrant and lost his job is now trying to help veterans facing deportation, according to a new media report.

In what is perhaps one of the most unusual of the 11m cases backlogged in the complex American immigration court system, 54-year-old Raul Rodriguez had spent much of his professional career working at two federal agencies which frequently encounter people trying to enter the US without permission.

The American navy veteran personally estimates that he helped deport thousands of people as a Customs and Border Protection officer interpreting immigration law – at the Gateway International Bridge connecting Mexico to the US in Brownsville, Texas – and before that with the federal immigration and naturalization service. But his law enforcement career ground to a halt after he filed a visa application for his brother, and federal investigators checking his background confronted him with a Mexican birth certificate with his name on it in 2018.

Rodriguez later confirmed with his father that his American birth certificate was a fake and that he was a Mexican national in the US without permission. Border patrol fired him, saying his lack of US citizenship made him ineligible to work there. His friends and former colleagues at the agency spurned him, and immigration authorities began working to deport him.

“You’re losing your identity,” Rodriguez recently told the military news outlet Stars and Stripes when asked about his career’s abrupt end. “All I saw was that my badge was lost, then I didn’t have my badge and my gun any more, which plays a huge role in law enforcement.”

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