Veteran Denied U.S. Citizenship Due To A Prior Drug Charge

Perez, who was charged for selling cocaine to an undercover officer in 2008, previously served as a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan.

GorodenkoffShutterstock

Miguel Perez, Jr. served in the U.S. military between 2001 and 2004. He was a soldier in Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, and was part of classified operations, reported the Chicago Tribune. The Army discharged him based on a drug-related violation. After his discharge, the veterans hospital diagnosed Perez with PTSD.

On November 26, 2008, Perez sold two pounds of cocaine concealed in a laptop case to an undercover officer. Perez was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and served half of his sentence before he was released. However, he was immediately detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in September, 2017. After ICE detained Perez, he went on a hunger strike for a period of time to protest his deportation.

Perez says that when he took an oath to protect the nation, he assumed that it gave him citizenship, according to Fox News. His misunderstanding may be due to the July, 2002, executive order. This order gave undocumented military men and women an opportunity for “expedited citizenship.” The Trump administration upholds this executive order.

There are several requirements for gaining citizenship, which is called “Naturalization Through Military Service.” The person must have good moral character, have knowledge of English, and its government and civics.

Featured image credit: Evgenia ParajanianShutterstock

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also describes the “Naturalization at Basic Training Initative,” which was implemented in August, 2009. The initiative provides a process for undocumented soldiers to become U.S. citizens by the time they complete basic training. Unfortunately for Perez, he finished his basic training years before the initiative was in place.

Most recently, after an interview with immigration on Thursday, Perez was told that he was not eligible for citizenship.

“To be eligible for naturalization, you must demonstrate that you are a person of good moral character. Because you have been convicted of an aggravated felony on or after Nov. 29, 1990, you are unable to demonstrate good moral character; therefore you are permanently ineligible for naturalization.”

He petitioned for citizenship under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, because he fears for his life if he returns to Mexico. His lawyer, Chris Bergin stated the following.

“Those kind of people [like Perez] are immediately targeted upon entry to Mexico as people who can help criminal gangs, cartels, through their military experience, their weapons training, all that. They are targeted in the sense that, ‘You either work for us or we kill you’.”

Currently, he’s in a Kankakee detention center in Illinois after spending time in solitary confinement in a Kenosha, Wisconsin, detention center. Perez can be deported at any time. However, he and his lawyer are continuing to fight against his deportation.

His mother, Espranza Perez, expressed to WGN the unfairness of the situation.

“I feel terrible, because my son, right now, is a soldier with no nation – no Mexico, no U.S.A., but my son fought for this country not for Mexico – now, he’s not a national?”

Family and friends also described how Perez began to sell drugs when he was suffering from PTSD, which made it difficult for him to work. They believe that Perez did not receive adequate care for his condition.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that the percentage of military personnel who have PTSD depends on their service. An estimated 11 to 20 percent of veterans suffer from PTSD.

Also, the symptoms for the condition include having “trouble functioning in their jobs or personal relationships.” The American Psychological Association also notes that people who are not properly treated can suffer from the effects of PTSD, which include depression, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse.