ICE Deports U.S. Army Veteran to Mexico After Serving Two Tours in Afghanistan

Updated | U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported an Army veteran who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan back to Mexico Friday.

Miguel Perez Jr., 39, was brought to the U.S. from Mexico legally when he was 8, according to the Chicago Tribune. Perez, who held a green card, attempted to retroactively gain citizenship as a veteran but was denied due to a felony drug conviction.

Perez mistakenly believed that he automatically became a citizen when he enlisted, according to Slate, a fate that has befallen a number of veterans who have arrived in the U.S. and then joined the military in a quest to become citizens.

In a statement to Newsweek, ICE confirmed that Perez had been deported and noted that military service is a positive factor when determining actions ICE takes.

Perez joined the Army in 2001 and served until 2004. Upon returning Perez was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from a Chicago-area Veterans Affairs hospital.

"After the second tour, there was more alcohol and that was also when I tried some drugs," said Perez last month. "But the addiction really started after I got back to Chicago, when I got back home, because I did not feel very sociable."

In 2008 Perez was caught attempting to sell two pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in connection with the incident. Perez was being let off early when he was then transferred to ICE custody for deportation. It was then that Perez learned he had not successfully become a citizen. Perez attempted to become a citizen retroactively but was denied because he did not show "good moral character," in the department's eyes—a main requirement for citizenship.

Illinois' Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, a veteran herself, and several activists fought to keep Perez in the country, but to no avail.

.@DHSgov @SecNielsen: you have the power to prevent @USArmy Veteran Miguel Perez from being deported TODAY. I urge you to personally review his case before forcing his deportation through without giving him time to even say goodbye to his loved ones

— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) March 23, 2018

"It's shameful to turn our backs on those who have the courage to wear the uniform," said Duckworth in a statement. "We can do better than this."

This story has been updated to include comment from ICE and to clarify that Perez entered the U.S. legally.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), agents detain an immigrant on October 14, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. ICE agents said the immigrant, a legal resident with a Green Card, was a convicted criminal and member of the Alabama Street Gang in the Canoga Park area. ICE builds deportation cases against thousands of immigrants living in the United States. Green Card holders are also vulnerable to deportation if convicted of certain crimes. The number of ICE detentions and deportations from California has dropped since the state passed the Trust Act in October 2013, which set limits on California state law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities John Moore/GETTY