A U.S. Army veteran and convicted felon is being deported to Mexico, a country where he was born but hasn’t lived in over 30 years. [Video “Family rallies behind US Army vet fighting deportation to Mexico; posted by JS worldwild_news on YouTube.”]
Miguel Perez, a former soldier and green card holder who’d served two tours in Afghanista, was dealt the news of his impending deportation on Monday. The 39-year old man had recently been released from prison, where he was serving a sentence for drug charges.
Perez and his family had tried appealing the decision, arguing that the veteran’s life would be in danger if he were sent away to Mexico. Since Perez hadn’t seen his homeland since he was 8 years old, they said, he’d be at risk from criminal organizations.
Mexican drug cartels and smaller gangs frequently prey on deportees, either by pressing them into crime or kidnapping them and extorting family members still in the United States.
But Perez’s argument was in vain. Last week, a three-judge panel for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected it, highlight what Perez’s attorney called a prime case of hypocrisy in how America treats its servicemen.
“If you’re going to put your hand on your hearts every time at a game, you’re going to say thank you for your service and wear American flag lapel pins and you’re going to criticize football players for taking a knee during the national anthem, it seems that’s all superficial and false patriotism if you’re not caring about an actual military veteran,” said attorney Chris Bergin.
The ruling, reports the Chicago Tribune, left the Perez family ‘distraught.’
“From the beginning, Miguel has fought his deportation, not only for himself, but in solidarity with other green card veterans who have been or who are now facing deportation after having served their country in combat,” said his relatives in a prepared statement.
Perez, reports the Tribune, had mistakenly believed he’d become a U.S. citizen after taking an oath to protect the country. His superiors in the military never offered clarification or information on how he, as a veteran, could expedite his citizenship application.
Following his return from the U.S. Army, Perez struggled to fit back in with society. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was supposed to undergo testing to check whether he’d sustained a major brain injury.
During that same time, the Tribune says he reconnected with a childhood friend.
The friend provided Perez with “free drugs and alcohol,” until one day the duo handed over a laptop case containing cocaine to an undercover police officer.
Soon after, Perez was issued a general discharge from the Army and sentenced to serve 15 years in prison – a sentence he completed half of, before being remanded to the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Standard practice for ICE, writes the Tribune, is to allow legal residents to complete prison sentences in the United States before putting them up for deportation.
Bergin says he and the Perez family have filed multiple appeals, including one based on a provision against “torture” – the assumption being that, if Miguel were sent back to Mexico, his life would be in imminent danger.
“He defended this country, and the same system wants to throw him away like garbage,” sobbed Perez’s mother, Esperanza, after the oral arguments for Miguel’s appeal had finished. Speaking in Spanish through a translator, she said, “It’s so sad for me to think if they send him back to Mexico, he’d be just another statistic.”