On Friday, Miguel Perez fulfilled a long-held dream: The Army veteran and deported drug felon swore an oath to affirm his US citizenship, CNN reports. A Facebook video shows him turning to the American flag and saluting. "It's been a long ... a long journey, a long battle," says the 39-year-old. Two months ago, living in Tijuana with little hope of returning, Perez heard Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker had granted him clemency. "Tears started running down my face," Perez tells the Chicago Tribune. "There's nothing I can really say to put this feeling into words." With support from US Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat and Iraq veteran, Perez went to Chicago and made his case for citizenship.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services gave him the good news Friday. "I was like no way," said Perez. "Seriously? [My lawyer] was like, 'Yeah, it's official.'" The ceremony ended a long journey for a man who came to America with his parents at age 8, served two tours in Afghanistan—in 2002, then 2003—suffered from PTSD, became a drug addict, got caught delivering cocaine, and served 7 1/2 years in prison. Despite going on a hunger strike and saying he'd "rather die" than leave, he was stripped of his green card and kicked out in March. On Friday he spoke at a Methodist Church in Chicago, telling WGN that "I fought for the country, the flag, and Constitution and today the Constitution responded by saying, 'Welcome home.'" (Read more deportation stories.)