CHICAGO — A deported United States Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan has been granted citizenship Friday.
Miguel Perez Jr., 39, made national news about 18 months ago after his citizenship was denied. The Afghan War veteran and green card holder served time in prison on a drug conviction.
In February of 2010, Perez was convicted of selling more than two pounds of cocaine.
Perez served seven years in the Army, but because he was not a U.S. citizen, Immigration Customs Enforcement detained him, stripped his legal status and began the deportation process.
On Friday around 1 p.m. Perez was sworn in as a citizen of the United States. He spoke later that same day inside the Lincoln United Methodist Church. The church's pastor was the one who started the fight for his citizenship years ago.
"It was something that came from the heart and naturally because it's always been here," he said. "I fought for the country, the flag and Constitution and today the Constitution responded by saying, 'Welcome home'."
Perez also thanked Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and former 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis for their advocacy and help.
In August, Gov. JB Pritzker pardoned Perez, clearing the way for his citizenship petition to move forward. In September, was in Chicago on a 14-day parole pass to attend a citizenship hearing.
Perez suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury which contributed to his drug problems, family said.
"Just two months ago, all this seemed impossible. I was in Tijuana wondering about my future, not sure about what was the next step," Perez Jr. said. "Now, here I am."
Supporters claimed Perez was under extreme threat in Mexico due to his military background fighting for the U.S.