This Veteran Served His Country in Afghanistan, Did Time for Drugs, Now May Be Deported

How Trump's immigration crackdown and the drug war are shamefully hurting military veterans.


Turning our backs
DoD/Sipa USA/Newscom

Mexican-born Miguel Perez Jr. — who has lived in the U.S. since he was eight — served two tours in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, earning military honors for his service including a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, an Army Commendation Medal, and a National Defense Service Medal.

Like many legal permanent residents who have served their adoptive country, Perez thought he was a citizen by virtue of his veteran status, based on an executive order signed by former President George W. Bush in 2002 "to provide expedited naturalization for aliens and non-citizen nationals serving in an active-duty status in the Armed Forces of the United States during the period of the war against terrorists of global reach." But Perez, who was deployed in Afghanistan at the time the order was issued, didn't understand the fine print and never filed the requisite paperwork, he told the Chicago Tribune from an immigration detention center in Wisconsin.

Perez also told the Tribune that after leaving the Army, doctors at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. After failing to maintain a steady job, he got mixed up with drugs and alcohol, ultimately handing a "laptop case full of cocaine to an undercover officer." He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

While locked up he earned an Associate's Degree, participated in both psychiatric and addiction therapy, and worked to help fellow inmates earn their GEDs. After serving about half of his sentence, Perez expected to be going home. Instead, he's facing deportation.

Perez's lawyer intends to argue that because Mexican drug cartels threaten military veterans who refuse to do their bidding, his client's life would be endangered if deported to Mexico, a country he barely knows, according to the Tribune. A hearing on Perez's fate is scheduled for today.

My Reason colleague CJ Ciaramella previously reported on a group of deported veterans who have banded together in Mexico to fight for what they were promised:

The U.S. pays a lot of lip-service to veterans. We stand to honor them at sporting events, we have federal holidays dedicated to them, and as a country, we have promised them lifelong healthcare for their service.

"When a veteran is denied health care, we are all dishonored," then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said in 2007. He would go on as president to fire the secretary of Veterans Affairs after whistleblower allegations of delayed care and cooked books at VA hospitals erupted into a national scandal.

But the deported veterans in Tijuana and elsewhere have no access to VA care centers, unless they can obtain hard-to-get humanitarian parole. They are entitled through the VA to some foreign medical programs, but [veteran Hector] Barajas said the benefits are difficult to access and limited to service-related injuries, unlike veteran healthcare in the U.S.

While these veterans can not access the services promised to them by the U.S. government to help keep them alive, they can get a military funeral in the United States once their bodies are no longer able to fight.

NEXT: Professor Injured By Crazed Mob at Middlebury Speaks Out: 'This Was the Saddest Day of My Life'

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  1. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

    Setting everything else aside, people convicted of violent crimes do less time.

    1. That’s probably a mandatory minimum. Like this guy:

    2. I’m guessing it was the laptop full of coke that did it.

      Also, blaming this on Trump’s “immigration crackdown” seems a little premature, unless the author can cite a specific policy Trump has implemented that affects this case?

      1. Not that I think you would disagree, but trafficking a million pounds of coke shouldn’t carry a harsher punishment than a violent crime.

      2. It is premature. The deportation proceedings happened before he even took office as linked below

      3. Yeah, I’ve no reason to think this story has anything to do with Trump’s policies. The feds were doing this under Obama, and I imagine under Bush as well. The federal government has been an asshole about drugs and about immigrants for more than 40 days.

  2. “We owe all the men and women who have fought for our nation an enormous debt of gratitude and respect,” said Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican congressman from southeastern Illinois and a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. “Prior military service alone, however, cannot create a blanket exemption from the laws of our country. The current policy … allows for the unique circumstances of each case to be considered.”

    Instead of saying, “We thank you for your service so much so that we won’t quite let the doorknob hit you in the ass on your way out,” Shimkus should get in contact with his representative in Congress to explore whether the laws of our country can and should be changed.

    1. Yeah man…

      “Thank you for serving our country” (oh, and, for “protecting our freedoms”) is rapidly followed by, “Now that you’re back, check out just how LITTLE freedom you have! Now let’s deport your ass to a hell-hole, ’cause you’re associating with politically incorrect substances!”

      Holy shit! HOW LONG does this circus of iniquity go on?!?!

  3. But didn’t Sheldon Richman tell me these guys were all just like the Sandyhook murderer?

    1. I thought Richman said they were the same as ISIS.

  4. “How Trump’s immigration crackdown and the drug war are shamefully hurting military veterans.”

    This was a green card holder and his parents became citizens so it doesn’t appear that he was illegal. The deportation proceeding started before Trump (note time of story in link Dec 1, 2016)…..n/1624548/

    So why is Trump’s immigration crackdown blamed for this? Trump is not mentioned in the article which makes sense. Perhaps you should have just said drug war.

    1. It’s amazing how Trump is responsible for so many things that have been happening for 8 years or longer.

      1. Yea is anthony being dishonest for hits by using that headline or just laziness? A quick google search shows this was going to occur almost 2 months prior to Trump stepping in office

    2. So why is Trump’s immigration crackdown blamed for this?

      You get a bonus at Reason for Trump hating clickbait.

  5. I find it almost impossible to believe this guy would have knowingly passed up free citizenship–unless there is evidence he wanted to avoid the ever-increasing reach of extraterritorial legislation, which I would certainly not blame him for. Nor was he, being in the military, unaccustomed to the weighty importance of paperwork. This phenomenon of alien vets without the citizenship they are entitled to is probably quite common. It should have been addressed better from square one, and should be addressed now. Illegals should certainly be deported in general, and society should certainly not respond to “for our brave men and women” with an abandonment of reason any more than they do for “for the children.” But this there is clear cause for.

    1. It’s unusual for the expedited citizenship to not be a factor for a legal immigrant enlisting, but not unheard of. If you’re a greencard holder in the US you can do 3 years in the military and get a fairly substantial package of post-service benefits; medical, educational, housing, etc.

      1. in California you can get all those benifits without enlisting or becoming a citizen and illegals get free college where as legal citizens do not, go figure, so why would anyone bother.

  6. Maybe aliens should be granted automatic citizenship after they successfully complete their enlistment commitment?

    1. Yeah, I don’t see why they couldn’t just do that. Just make a law that says people honorably discharged from the military are citizens.

      1. Works for me.

      2. Ya i agree. Trump cant do this though unless congress does.

      3. we are talking about the government here thats to easy

    2. Service guarantees citizenship! Do you want to learn more?

    3. I don’t think you can force citizenship on people.

      You could give them expedited citizenship if they want it, which largely sounds like what the Bush program did.

      I suppose the government could make an affirmative effort to make that happen *while* they’re still in the service.

    4. This guy chose US military service to get citizenship quicker. He then fails to file the paperwork. He then is not just using drugs but selling to them (a laptop of illicit drugs).

      I resent the media using this guy as a FEELZ case to stop deportations. This guy is a fuck up and clearly didnt learn to follow the rules in the military. How many chances do you give someone, even a veteran of a foreign war?

      As a fellow veteran, this guy has numerous veteran charity groups to help him even if he is in Mexico.

  7. Sunce Richman’s article about “America’s Church” over the weekend, does military service serve as a kind of indulgence, absolving the veteran of future felonies? We can question whether dealing in coxaine should be illegal, and we can question whether military naturalization paperwork can be made clearer, but Perez is responsible for the situation he put himself in, otherwise you are arguing yhat this man has no agency over his choices.

    1. Id say no especially if like theft or assault or murder etc with a victim

      I do think coke and dealing it should be legal as well as trafficking it

    2. Most in the country regard peddling a *suitcase* full of coke as a serious crime. Hard to get much sympathy on that score.

      If we really want to give citizenship to veterans, that should be part of the exit process from the service for qualifying veterans.

  8. RE: This Veteran Served His Country in Afghanistan, Did Time for Drugs, Now May Be Deported
    How Trump’s immigration crackdown and the drug war are shamefully hurting military veterans.

    Veterans, like myself, recognize we are expendable for the sake of The State. It is our beloved socialist slave state that we serve (or have served), and it has a right to do with us as it pleases. Deporting veterans, jailing veterans for minor drug offenses, or ensuring veterans do not travel anywhere in the world as they please only demonstrates, once again, the love The State has for us and the respect for the sacrifices we have given. Indeed, all us veterans should get down on our knees and give thanks to the government who enslaves us all with really stupid drug laws, even more asinine immigration laws, restrictive travel laws, high tax rates, miles of red tape to ensure we do not start our own businesses, etc. Otherwise our sacrifices would be held in contempt by the ruling elitist filth who ensure all us little people stay in our socio-economic places our obvious betters have worked so hard to put and keep us there. Indeed, there is no sacrifice too big or small by veterans to keep our enlightened leaders rich, powerful and happy.

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  10. Yawn. The “poor veteran” narrative doesn’t do a think for me. You lost me at “he got mixed up with drugs and alcohol, ultimately handing a “laptop case full of cocaine to an undercover officer.” He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.”

    Listen. I’m for drug legalization across the board, but until it happens, I somehow manage to not be handling suitcases of cocaine. Guy’s a drug addict, an alcoholic and a law-breaker, and apparently not smart enough to pay attention to the most important paperwork of his life. If I was an immigrant in some country and wanted to be nationalized, you can bet I’d make sure my t’s were crossed and my i’s were dotted.

    I see nothing about this guy that makes me think, “Aw, damn, we’re losing a great citizen to Mexico by deporting him.”

    Perez’s lawyer intends to argue that because Mexican drug cartels threaten military veterans who refuse to do their bidding, his client’s life would be endangered if deported to Mexico, a country he barely knows, according to the Tribune. A hearing on Perez’s fate is scheduled for today.

    Sounds like he was eagerly doing the drug cartels’ bidding when he was toting around that suitcase full of cocaine.

  11. The whole point of the drug war is to hurt people.

  12. I’m assuming this conviction was a felony. Outside of your beliefs about what the laws are versus what they should be, a felony results in even those receiving retirement pay from getting it. This is regardless of their service history, awards or anything else. As a veteran, I can assure you that this guy had the means and ability to find out if there was a procedure to gain his citizenship, but failed to do so. I thank him for his service and sure do wish he or someone who loves him had helped him navigate the legalities of his citizenship; however the reality is that he is a convicted felon here illegally. That’s really all there is to say. His PTSD and service had nothing to do with his other choices.

  13. All those awards are given out for breathing while deploying, E6 and above get Bronze Stars for the same. Vets arnt anything special, we are the same jerks in and out of uniform.

  14. My Uncle Nolan recently got Infiniti G Sedan by working part-time from a macbook… go to
    the website………….

  15. “…he got mixed up with drugs and alcohol…”

    I think you meant to say, “…he got mixed up with drugs…”, since alcohol is a drug. It’s like saying “…he got mixed up with drugs and heroin…”

  16. No one in this country should ever face punishment of any kind for buying, selling, possessing, or using drugs. Any drug, anyone, any time. That said, I fail to understand why people seem so shocked when veterans face the same unjust punishments as the rest of us.

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