By Debbie Gregory.
Miguel Perez Jr. discovered the hard way that two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, a green card and PTSD are no shield from U.S. immigration laws.
Because of a 2010 felony drug conviction, Perez has been placed in a Kenosha, Wisconsin detention center, awaiting a possible deportation. Military service is no guarantee of citizenship, and although he has a green card, Perez never applied for citizenship, despite being eligible to.
Perez though he had become a U.S. citizen when he took the military’s oath to protect the nation, a misconception he discovered after he was released from prison and was called to immigration court. A native of Mexico, Perez hasn’t lived there since the age of 8.
Perez has been placed on a suicide watch as he has gone on a hunger strike to protest his situation.
“I’ve been talking to him for over a year now and I haven’t heard him sound like this,” said supporter Sara Walker. “He sounds anxious, depressed and confused.”
Perez has said that he fears deportation would do more than separate him from his family in the United States, including his two children who were both born here and are U.S. citizens. He thinks it could kill him.
In Mexico, he would not have access to substance abuse counseling or mental health resources to help him deal with his PTSD. He also fears being recruited by the drug cartels since he has combat experience.
According to his attorney, Chris Bergin, Perez served in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003, and he left the Army in 2004 with a general discharge after he was caught smoking marijuana on base.
“If you’re going to put your hand on your hearts every time at a game, you’re going to say thank you for your service and wear American flag lapel pins and you’re going to criticize football players for taking a knee during the national anthem, it seems that’s all superficial and false patriotism if you’re not caring about an actual military veteran,” said Bergin.