When Miguel Perez Jr. enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2001, he did so because wanted to give back to the country that had given his family so much. A Mexican-born permanent U.S. resident, Perez Jr. served two tours in Afghanistan: one in 2002 and another in 2003. Now, Perez Jr., who has lived in the U.S. since he was eight years old, faces deportation to Mexico.
Why? In 2010, Perez Jr. was arrested for giving an undercover police officer more than two pounds of cocaine. After being convicted on drug charges, he served 7 years in prison. Upon his release, the 38-year-old Perez Jr. learned that his conviction made him subject to deportation. Perez thought his military service granted him automatic citizenship because in 2002, then-president George W. Bush signed an executive order that expedited citizenship for non-citizens who were serving in the military. However, Bush’s executive order did not grant automatic citizenship, and it required non-citizens to apply for citizenship in order to benefit from the expedited process. Perez did not apply, which resulted in his permanent resident status remaining unchanged.
Perez Jr. is currently fighting to remain in the U.S. His parents have spoken out in defense of their son, insisting that Perez Jr.’s struggles with PTSD led him to the drugs that resulted in his criminal activity. His lawyer, Chris Bergin, is arguing that Perez Jr. should be granted asylum to remain in the U.S. According to ABC 7 Chicago, Bergin says his client would become a target for cartels in Mexico: “Many people with military experience like he has are recruited at gunpoint to work for the cartels and if they refuse they are killed.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, Perez Jr. told the immigration judge handling his case that deportation would be like being sent back to jail: “This is the same as somebody fighting a life sentence. The outcome of this determines the rest of my life spent away from my society, my way of life, my loved ones and not to mention, my country.”
Here is a brief news report about Perez Jr. by Chicago’s CBS 2 News:
Credit: CBS 2 Chicago / YouTube
Perez Jr.’s hearing concluded earlier this week. He is currently awaiting the immigration judge’s ruling.