So it finally happened. Despite the support of a U.S. senator and a legion of immigration rights activists, a U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan has been deported to Mexico, where he hasn’t lived since he was 8. Miguel Perez Jr., 39, was escorted across the border to Mexico and handed over to local authorities Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
Perez’s plight has captivated Chicago for months but it seems the campaign to help the father of two who suffered from PTSD after returning from Afghanistan didn’t persuade immigration officials to give him another chance. Perez, who has a green card, thought he automatically became a citizen when he joined the military in 2001. But he was wrong about that and then when he tried to apply for citizenship he was denied due to a felony drug conviction.
“After the second tour, there was more alcohol and that was also when I tried some drugs,” Perez said last month. “But the addiction really started after I got back to Chicago, when I got back home, because I did not feel very sociable.” He was sentenced to 15 years of prison after he was convicted on charges related to delivering more than two pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer. Earlier this year, Perez made the headlines when he started a hunger strike as a form of protest. He said his life would be in danger in Mexico because drug cartels target veterans with combat experience and force them to work.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois took on Perez’s plight and wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, asking her to personally review the case. “Beyond the injustice that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has laid on Perez … in his deportation, I would find it shocking to learn that he will potentially be leaving with nothing but the clothes on his back,” Duckworth wrote. “This is a deplorable way to treat a veteran who risked his life in combat for our nation.”
After the deportation, Duckworth didn’t mince word, releasing a strongly worded statement in which she accused the country’s immigration policies of being “based more in hate than on logic.” Duckworth said she was “appalled” that Nielsen didn’t respond to her request to review the case “and decide for herself whether deporting this brave combat veteran was a good use of DHS’ limited resources.”