When it comes to the question of deporting immigrants from the United States, one would think that veterans of the United States military would be the last to be deported. However, that is unfortunately not the case. There are many examples of veterans who have served in the United States military who are currently experiencing the threat of deportation.
One such veteran is 39-year-old veteran Miguel Perez, Jr, who CNN reports is currently threatened by deportation even after serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan in the United States Army. Perez immigrated to the United States from Mexico over three decades ago and joined the United States Army under the belief that his service to the United States would give him access to citizenship. While serving in Afghanistan, Perez suffered traumas that caused him, like many veterans, to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Perez was then discharged after being discovered smoking marijuana on base.
While continuing to suffer from untreated PTSD, Perez’s life after his Army discharge began to unravel into further drug and alcohol abuse and led to a drug conviction that caused him to lose his green card. He is now facing deportation by ICE and fears that returning to Mexico will result in death from drug cartels who have already told him they will attempt to force him into employment.
Veterans like Perez are, sadly, not unique. Over 100,000 United States service members have been naturalized between 2002 and 2015, but there are many like Perez who have fallen through the cracks due to PTSD and other life challenges that they have faced after leaving the military.
Perez’s case is currently being argued in an appeal to the 7th US Circuit Court, and he is fortunate to have many supporters advocating for him in the State of Illinois and across the country. But we must take further action to prevent service members like Perez, who have sacrificed so much for this country, from facing deportation. Providing naturalization to immigrant service members could serve as a wonderful form of thanks and recognition as a nation for the brave service of these individuals.