Army Private First Class Miguel Perez Jr., who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, is going to be deported to Mexico (video below).
Perez's family and supporters gathered to show their support at a Pilsen church in Chicago on March 19, notes WLS.
His mother, Esperanza Medina, said: "My son fought for this country, not for Mexico."
Perez was born in Mexico, but came to the U.S. legally with his parents when he was 8-years-old. The legal permanent resident joined the military because he wrongly thought enlistment would give him citizenship.
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Perez left the Army in 2010, but about four years later, he served time in jail for a felony drug crime.
According to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson, the drug conviction is what targeted Perez for deportation.
ICE has the 38-year-old Army veteran in custody.
Perez's case hinged on a claim under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, reported the Chicago Tribune.
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That international agreement means the U.S. will not deport someone to a foreign country where they could be subjected to torture.
Perez's lawyer Chris Bergin told Immigration Judge Robin Rosche that Perez would be in danger if he was deported to Mexico.
This notion is that Mexican drug cartels want veterans who have been in combat to work for them, but those who refuse place themselves at risk, according human rights activists and advocates for deported veterans.
Bergin stated: "There's a pattern of impunity of the government either participating or looking the other way clearly in human rights abuses."
Anastasie Senat, a lawyer for ICE, countered: "I understand it's a sympathetic case because he has served our country. But it is Congress' law that I'm called to enforce and that we are called to enforce and to respect, and in this situation there is no discretion."
Perez, appeared in court via TV from an undisclosed location in Chicago.
"It's not what I think would happen to me," he said. "It's what I know. It's not like I can… fit in and blend in. It just doesn't work that way. How long can I hide the fact I've been deported and I was in the military?"
Rosche ruled against Perez, but Bergin appealed the judge's deportation ruling. He contacted Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both of Illinois, and asked them to give Perez retroactive citizenship, which would begin on his first day in the military, reports WLS.