A Mexico-born U.S. Army veteran with permanent resident status is facing the possibility of deportation after getting arrested for a 2010 drug conviction.
Miguel Perez, Jr., 38, was convicted of delivery of more than two pounds of cocaine, according to website DNA Info back in 2010. After serving seven years in state prison, he was put into Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Sep. 23, 2016.
Before his cocaine bust, Perez served two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
"There was a lot of action at that time," said Perez, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I didn't think I was coming back. Just seeing the 50 stars and stripes did something to my skin. It was incredible, ecstasy, nirvana."
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Although Perez was arrested, convicted, and put into deportation proceedings during former President Barack Obama's administration, the harsh rhetoric about immigrants from President Donald Trump has caused cases like Perez's to get more attention.
"Many people are unaware that the United States deports military veterans," said Margaret Stock, immigration lawyer and former Army lieutenant colonel, according to NPR.
According to WLS, Perez, who came to the U.S. at the age of 8, suffered a brain injury in Afghanistan when a grenade exploded near his head.
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"We are not arguing that Miguel Perez has made an error of judgment," said Rev. Emma Lozano about Perez's drug conviction. "But we are also saying that PTSD is real."
When a military veteran faces deportation, ICE requires additional evaluation of the case by senior counsel.
"ICE respects the service and sacrifice of those in military service, and is very deliberate in its review of cases involving U.S. military veterans," ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro said in a statement, according to the Chicago Tribune. "Any action taken by ICE that may result in the removal of an alien with military service must be authorized by the senior leadership in a field office, following an evaluation by local counsel."
Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, said Perez's military experience shouldn't necessarily exempt him from deportation.
"We owe all the men and women who have fought for our nation an enormous debt of gratitude and respect," Shimkus said. "Prior military service alone, however, cannot create a blanket exemption from the laws of our country. The current policy ... allows for the unique circumstances of each case to be considered."
Chris Bergin, Perez's attorney, said his client has already received enough punishment by serving his prison sentence.
"Being removed to Mexico, where he would be at risk of being killed … being separated from his whole family and the only country he has ever known, seems to be a punishment that does not fit the crime," Bergin said in a motion filed in 2016.