CHICAGO — A deported army veteran has been paroled and returned to Chicago.
Miguel Perez Jr. made headlines across the country after he was sent to Mexico more than 18 months ago.
Citizenship was denied for the Afghan War veteran and green card holder who served time in prison on a drug conviction.
Perez enlisted in the military before 9/11 and served until 2004. He moved to Chicago when he was 8-years-old and was a permanent legal resident. He joined the U.S. Army and served two tours of duty in Afghanistan where he suffered a brain injury in an explosion.
Perez’s friends and family said the injury, and the PTSD he later developed, made it difficult for him to find work when he returned to Chicago. They said he then started selling drugs.
In February of 2010, Perez was convicted of selling more than two pounds of cocaine.
Perez served seven years, but because he is not a U.S. citizen, Immigration Customs Enforcement detained him, stripped his legal status and began the deportation process.
Perez returned from Mexico early on a 14-day parole pass and was planning to attend his citizenship hearing on Wednesday only to learn it had been postponed.
“I have faith in God that I’m going to be able to stay home,” he said. “I have to stay home I can’t go back. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was stranded in place that I don’t belong, where I couldn’t leave the house. It’s a dangerous place. There’s death threats. It is just someplace where I don’t wish anyone to be.”
Last month Governor JB Pritzker pardoned Perez and cleared the way for his citizenship petition to move forward.
Perez wants the judge deciding his case to know he is not a criminal.
“Number one, I’m not a criminal. Number two, Chicago is my home. I don’t know any other home but Chicago. And they would be doing the right thing, not just because of me … How can you deport somebody that fought for the country? I’m not just talking about me, I’m talking about thousands of deported veterans that are alone in the world.”
Perez’s attorney is working with Senator Tammy Duckworth in hopes of getting the hearing rescheduled before his 14-day pass expires. If it doesn’t happen, they will ask for an extension.