Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has denied clemency for a Chicago veteran who is facing deportation after serving two tours in Afghanistan with the US Army, CNN affiliate WLS reported.
“It’s not appropriate to go into detail on reason for a decision, but we take every review of clemency and pardon very seriously,” Rauner told WLS. “We made the decision not to grant it in that case.”
Miguel Perez Jr., 39, has been detained at an US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Kenosha, Wisconsin, since last year. ICE began deportation proceedings while Perez was serving a sentence for a felony drug charge.
He lost his green card and became a target for immigration authorities due to his conviction and a pardon could have helped him remain in the country.
Perez’s attorney has been fighting his deportation in court. He appealed the deportation order, but a three-judge panel of the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his plea last week.
He could be deported this month.
Perez is not the first veteran of the US military to face deportation. An estimated 3,000 veterans have been deported in recent years, according to a report by the Texas Civil Rights Project.
‘I saw many horrible things’
Perez was born in Mexico and came to the United States at age 8 when his father, Miguel Perez Sr., a semi-pro soccer player, moved the family to Chicago because of a job offer, Perez told CNN in an interview.
He served in Afghanistan from October 2002 to April 2003 and May 2003 to October 2003, said his lawyer Chris Bergin. He added that Perez left the Army in 2004 with a general discharge after he was caught smoking marijuana on base.
After leaving the Army, Perez’s life went off the tracks. He attributed these problems to post-traumatic stress disorder, which was not immediately diagnosed.
“I saw many horrible things, things I can only, until this day, speak about with a mental health specialist and even then after I say them, the nightmares start up again,” he said. “They are things that happened to me personally, that happened to others, and to Afghans themselves – 12-, 11-year-old kids split in half by 50-caliber bullets at our hands.
He became addicted to drugs, drank heavily and the legal problems began.
In 2010, Perez was convicted on charges related to his delivery of more than 2 pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer. He was sentenced to 15 years on a charge of manufacture or delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance, ICE spokesperson Nicole Alberico said.
As he served half his sentence in prison, he was able to get the treatment he needed for his PTSD and finished his associate’s degree.
CNN’s Maria Santana and Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.