Afghanistan veteran faces deportation to country he doesn't call home

He fears for his life and his possible deportation looms

Matt Saintsing
February 05, 2018 - 11:23 am

Photo by Alejandro Tamayo/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS


A veteran diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTS) who served two tours in Afghanistan is finding out his service may not be enough to stay in the United States as he is facing possible deportation.

Miguel Perez Jr., 39, a Chicago resident, lost an appeal last week that would have kept him in the United States. Due to a 2010 drug conviction, he now sits in an ICE detention center in Kenosha, Wisconsin awaiting possible deportation to Mexico—a country he hasn’t called home for more than 30 years.

He began a hunger strike last Wednesday to protest the court’s decision, as he believes going back to Mexico is a death sentence. Perez predicts that drug cartels would try to recruit him because of his military experience and would murder him if he doesn’t cooperate.

"If they are sentencing me to a certain death, and I am going to die, then why die in a place that I have not considered my home in a long time?" he told CNN in an interview.

Perez has two children who are both U.S. citizens. He is one of many permanent residents who served in the U.S. military but now faces possible deportation after committing a crime in the U.S.

Following his service in the U.S. Army, Perez sought treatment at a VA hospital in Maywood, Ill., where he was diagnosed with PTS. He was supposed to be tested for a traumatic brain injury, but was arrested before it could take place.

In 2008, Perez handed a laptop case containing cocaine to an undercover police officer. He pleaded guilty to the drug charge and served half of a 15-year prison sentence.

Perez isn’t the first veteran to face deportation.

Tijuana, Mexico is home to many deported veterans, who, like Perez, mistakenly thought enlisting in the U.S. military would automatically make them U.S. citizens. Typically, when legal residents or people who are in the U.S. illegally commit crimes, ICE lets them serve most of their sentence in the U.S. before they are deported.

“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,” Perez’s attorney, Chris Bergin told the Chicago Tribune.

Perez was born in Mexico and was brought to the U.S. when he was eight by his father.