Miguel Perez, a U.S. Army veteran who completed two tours in Afghanistan and has been in America since he was eight years old, was deported to Mexico on March 23. His lawyer, Chris Bergin, told NBC News his client was dropped off in the most dangerous areas of the Mexican border in an orange jumpsuit with no money.
Perez was serving a 15 year sentence on felony drug charges for delivering 2 pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer in 2010 in Cook County, Illinois, according to CNN. His green card was revoked at the time. Half way through his sentence, ICE commenced his deportation process.
The 39-year-old father of two legally immigrated to the United States from Mexico with his parents when he was a child. The family settled in Chicago, Illinois, and his mother and father, as well as one of his siblings, became naturalized citizens. While his younger sister, and his two children, were born in the United States, Perez has maintained his status as a permanent resident since the age of 11.
According to his lawyer, Perez believed his service — from Oct. to April 2003 and May to Oct. 2003 — would automatically grant him citizenship. His supporters, including Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, believe his wartime service should allow him the right to stay in the United States. Sen. Duckworth said in a statement on March 24: “This case is a tragic example of what can happen when national immigration policies are based more in hate than on logic and ICE doesn’t feel accountable to anyone. At the very least, Miguel should have been able to exhaust all of his legal options before being rushed out of the country under a shroud of secrecy.”
The veteran, who was discharged from the military in 2004 after he was caught smoking a joint on base, has said that after his tours he suffered from PTSD and resorted to drugs and alcohol to cope.
His attorney plans to appeal the denial of his citizenship.