Green card veteran denied appeal of deportation order

By MANYA BRACHEAR PASHMAN | Chicago Tribune (Tribune News Service) | Published: July 12, 2017

An appeal to halt the deportation of a decorated Army veteran to his native Mexico has been denied, according to a letter delivered to him and his lawyer Tuesday.

An order for removal has been issued for Miguel Perez Jr., a veteran with a green card who served time in a state prison for a felony drug conviction after two tours in Afghanistan. Perez, 39, had requested relief under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, an agreement by the U.S. not to deport people who are not American citizens or nationals to another country where they could be tortured.

His attorney Chris Bergin said he will file for a stay of removal Wednesday. He has 30 days to appeal.

"I will file a stay of removal tomorrow so we have more time to think," he said.

The request for relief under the U.N. torture provision is one of three efforts to keep Perez in the U.S. He is one of many legal permanent residents who have served in the U.S. military, then confronted the possibility of deportation to their native countries after committing a crime.

In April, his attorney and mother appeared before the state's clemency board to ask Gov. Bruce Rauner to grant a pardon.

Bergin also has petitioned U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant citizenship to Perez, 39, retroactively to when he joined the military in 2001 — a third option that could void the deportation order, the attorney said.

In an interview from a Wisconsin detention center Tuesday, Perez said he's still hopeful that senators who support his case will intervene on his behalf and halt his deportation to Mexico, where he hasn't lived since he was 8.

According to human rights activists and advocates for deported veterans, drug cartels target former U.S. residents, especially veterans with combat experience, to work on their behalf, and those who don't comply are at risk.

Perez said he struggled to hold down jobs after returning to Chicago after his military service. He sought treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Maywood, where doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was supposed to return for more tests to determine whether he also had a traumatic brain injury.

In the meantime, he reconnected with a childhood friend who provided free drugs and alcohol. On the night of Nov. 26, 2008, while with that friend, Perez handed a laptop case full of cocaine to an undercover officer. Perez pleaded guilty to delivering less than 100 grams of cocaine and served half of a 15-year sentence.

As is the case with many other green card veterans, Perez, a father of two U.S. citizen children, mistakenly thought he became a U.S. citizen when he took an oath to protect the nation. Military superiors never offered to help him expedite his citizenship, he said.

He discovered the oversight when he was summoned to immigration court shortly before his release from Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg last year. Instead of heading home to Chicago from prison, Perez was placed in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and transferred to a Wisconsin detention center for immigrants awaiting deportation.

When legal residents or people who are here illegally commit crimes, ICE's standard procedure is to let them serve most of their sentence for the crime in the U.S., then deport them.


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