A U.S. Army veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury is preparing to commence a hunger strike as he awaits deportation in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. Though he is a green card holder, Miguel Perez was convicted on a felony drug charge and his fate is now uncertain.
Miguel Perez Jr., 39, a Chicago resident who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and recently finished a prison term on a drug conviction, had sought to remain in the U.S., arguing his life would be in danger if he were deported to Mexico, where drug cartels target veterans with combat experience to work on their behalf, or else.
"If it comes down to me being deported, I would rather leave this world in the country I gave my heart for,” Perez said in an interview from the detention center where he has been in custody for the last year.
Following his general discharge for a drug infraction, Perez hooked up with an old friend who supplied him with free drugs and alcohol, and everything went downhill from there:
On Nov. 26, 2008, while with that friend, Perez handed a laptop case containing cocaine to an undercover officer. Perez pleaded guilty to the drug charge and served half of a 15-year prison sentence.
After serving his time, Perez was not released but instead sent to a Wisconsin immigration detention center to await deportation. While there, he has not had access to adequate treatment for his PTSD or traumatic brain injury.
Perez’s attorney Chris Bergin said he has filed a stay on two grounds. One is based on a medical evaluation finding that Perez needs immediate attention for PTSD and his brain injury. The other seeks retroactive citizenship for Perez to when he joined the military in 2001.
If the stay is not granted, he will be forced to leave his family and the country he has called home for more than 30 years.
Perez, who has two children who are U.S. citizens, is one of many legal permanent residents who served in the U.S. military then confronted the possibility of deportation to their native countries after committing a crime.