CORONA, Calif. (KABC) -- Jose Palomar grew up in Anaheim. He has a job, a wife and children in Corona.
But because he was brought to the U.S. illegally when he was six years old, he's now being told he's ineligible to re-enter the country -- all because he admitted to immigration authorities that he smoked marijuana.
"This immigration system is messed up," said Christine Palomar, a U.S. citizen who's been married to Jose Palomar for more than five years.
"At the end of the day, why be honest if you're going to be screwed at the end?" she asks.
Jose Palomar has now been away from his wife and children for nearly two months. His trouble stemmed from a recent trip to Juarez, Mexico in hopes of securing a green card and trying to become a U.S. citizen.
Even though he's allowed to live and work in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, he knew leaving the country to begin the U.S. citizenship process would come with risks.
"Even crossing the border in Texas, my heart was beating like it was never beating before. My biggest scare was over the marijuana situation," he said.
But Palomar said his attorney told him not to lie under any circumstances.
"I'm guessing that the fact that I admitted to using marijuana in the past, they did a drug test on me, and when I came to the psychologist they said I came back positive," he said.
Palomar was then told he would be ineligible to receive a visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act. And because he'd been in the country illegally for more than a year, he wouldn't be eligible to return until May 2029.
"There's harder days than others," said Palomar, who is staying with family members in Guadalajara he doesn't even remember.
"There are nights that I do cry myself to sleep," he said.
Christine Palomar is now raising their four children on her own, while she hopes for help from her local representatives.
"Financially it's hard. But emotionally, it's been horrible," she said.