Justice

Decorated Army Veteran Faces Deportation Hearing Today

March 6th 2017

By:
Mike Rothschild

United Army Private Miguel Perez, Jr. served two tours in Afghanistan, suffering a brain injury after an explosion went off near his head.

Despite the service he rendered to his country, Perez faced a deportation hearing on Monday, a result of President Donald Trump's increased emphasis on immigration enforcement. Perez was born in Mexico, brought to the U.S. when he was 8 years old, and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. Then, a legal permanent resident, Perez enlisted in the Army in 2001, and mistakenly believed that he became a U.S. citizen upon taking his oath.

But he did not, and after serving out a seven year prison term for a non-violent drug offense, Perez was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

If a judge rules against him, he'll be deported to a country he hasn't lived in for thirty years, likely be unable to continue his treatment for the wounds he suffered in combat, and be marked as a target for drug cartels who "recruit" deported military veterans to use as muscle.

When he joined the Army, Perez became one of nearly 35,000 non-citizens serving in the U.S. military, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Defense. About 8,000 non-citizens join the military every year, and over 109,000 people have been granted citizenship thanks to military service since the 9/11 attacks.

However, the process is not automatic, and non-citizens in the armed forces have the same deportation risk that all others do.

While the Trump administration's stance has multiplied that risk, it's not a new phenomenon.

Under former President Barack Obama, so many foreign-born veterans were deported that one set up a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, for service members with no ties to Mexico who were dropped at the border. Neither ICE nor Homeland Security keep records of how many veterans have been deported, and the numbers are estimated be between thousands and tens of thousands, according to CNN.

Perez will learn his fate when the judge issues a decision in a few weeks.