CHICAGO, Ill. — An immigration judge has ordered an Army veteran who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan to be deported.
His family and his attorney on Sunday pleaded with the public and elected officials to intervene.
"Miguel is basically an American in every sense of the word," his lawyer Chris Bergin said.
Bergin said he'll continue to fight to keep Miguel Perez Jr. on U.S. soil.
Perez moved to Chicago when he was 8 years old and was a permanent legal resident. He joined the U.S. Army and served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, where he suffered a brain injury in an explosion.
Perez's friends and family say that injur and the post traumatic stress disorder he later developed made it difficult for him to find work when he returned to Chicago. They say he then started selling drugs.
In February 2010, Perez was convicted of selling more than 2 pounds of cocaine.
"What Miguel was charged and did a sentence for was a non-violent drug conviction. He never hurt anyone," said Emma Lozano, of the Lincoln United Methodist Church.
Perez served seven years, but because he is not a U.S. citizen, Immigration Customs Enforcement detained him, stripped his legal status and began the deportation process. He has been in ICE custody since.
"I feel terrible, because my son, right now, is a soldier with no nation — no Mexico, no U.S.A. But my son fought for this country not for Mexico. Now, he’s not a national?" Perez's mother Espranza Perez said.
The veteran is one of thousands of undocumented immigrant soldiers facing deportation. His lawyer and his family are pleading with U.S. senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin to introduce a bill that would make Perez a citizen.
Durbin didn't commit to that Sunday, but noted the complexity of the situation.
"It’s a complicated case. We don’t want dangerous people to remain in this country, but we ought to have our eyes wide open," Durbin said.
"Here’s a man who risked his life for this country. Maybe he can pay his price for what he’s done wrong here, and still get a chance to stay here."
Perez has two children, both of whom are U.S. citizens: an 18-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. He fears he won't see them again if he's deported.
Perez's attorney has filed an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, so he'll remain in the country while the appeals process plays out.