An Army vet and longtime green card holder has begun a hunger strike after failing to block his deportation to Mexico, which could be imminent because of a felony drug conviction. Fearing drug cartels will kill him after a failed attempt to recruit him for his military background, 39-year-old Miguel Perez Jr. of Chicago says an "extreme fast" is his only avenue after an appeals court denied his request to remain in the only home he's known since age 8, reports the Chicago Tribune. That decision last week stemmed from a conviction for delivering less than 100 grams of cocaine to an undercover officer in 2008, though prosecutors say a plea deal masked that the real amount was significantly more. Perez, who has two American children, argues he only got mixed up with drugs because of a PTSD diagnosis following two tours in Afghanistan.
Perez was also to undergo tests for a traumatic brain injury—WGN reports he was injured in an explosion—but was arrested before that could happen, per the Tribune. After serving half of a 15-year sentence, he was summoned to immigration court, placed in the custody of customs officers, and taken to a detention center in Wisconsin, where he's been for more than a year. "The system has been killing me slowly, and now I'm facing death if I'm deported to Mexico, so I would rather die in the country I fought for than in a place that's not my home," he tells CBS Chicago of the hunger strike started Wednesday. His lawyer has filed two stays, one arguing Perez needs immediate medical attention, and another seeking retroactive citizenship dating to 2001, when Perez joined the military. His supporters are also asking Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner for a pardon. (Read more hunger strike stories.)