"This is a deplorable way to treat a veteran who risked his life in combat for our nation," is Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth's characterization of what has happened to Miguel Perez Jr. The Mexico-born 39-year-old spent roughly three decades as a legal permanent resident here, she says. But after serving two tours in Afghanistan with the US Army, Perez was in 2010 convicted of drug charges; he was diagnosed with PTSD post-service, and after receiving free drugs from a friend, he ended up passing a bag containing cocaine to an undercover cop. He was sentenced to 15 years on delivery charges. Perez reportedly thought he had citizenship because of his service. He didn't, though his children and parents do; CNN reports Perez came to the US as an 8-year-old when his father, a soccer semi-pro, was offered a job.
Midway through his sentence, ICE started deportation proceedings, and his retroactive application for citizenship was turned down this month. And so on Friday he was removed from the country. Lawyer Chris Bergen tells NBC News his client "was dumped in one of the most dangerous areas of the Mexican border" with no money, wearing his orange prison garb. Perez told the Chicago Tribune on Thursday night all he had on him was thermal underwear and a toothbrush and toothpaste. His lawyer says they are appealing the decision. Earlier this year, Perez went on a hunger strike, saying he'd "rather die in the country I fought for than in a place that's not my home." The Tribune notes drug cartels often try to force deported veterans into their ranks, and Perez suggested his life would be in peril.