There is a saying that bad facts make for bad law, but sometimes bad facts just show that you’re defending the indefensible.
For the past several months, a guy named Miguel Perez has been a cause célèbre for the anti-deportation-of-immigrant-felons caucus. From Senator Tammy Duckworth:
Upon learning of the imminent deportation of fellow combat Veteran Miguel Perez Jr., U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) requested an urgent update on the removal proceedings and asked U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to personally review Perez’s case.
“I was alarmed to learn this morning that Mr. Perez Montes’ removal from the United States is imminent and may be carried out today at O’Hare International Airport,” Duckworth wrote in the letter to Nielsen. “As ICE continues to hastily and aggressively pursue the deportation of this Veteran who served our nation in uniform, I am urgently appealing to you to stay his deportation and personally review his case. Beyond the injustice ICE has laid on Mr. Perez Montes in his deportation, I would find it shocking to learn that he will potentially be leaving with nothing but the clothes on his back. This is a deplorable way to treat a Veteran who risked his life in combat for our nation.”
Duckworth wrote several letters of support for Perez’s retroactive citizenship application. The Senator also introduced a private bill last month to help her fellow combat Veteran remain in the United States. Perez is an immigrant who grew up in Illinois and served two tours of duty in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He has lived in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident since the age of 11, but never became a citizen during his time in the military. On July 3, 2002, President George W. Bush signed an executive order authorizing all noncitizens who have served honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces on or after September 11, 2001, to file for U.S. Citizenship. Perez was not offered support from the U.S. Army to Naturalize as a U.S. Citizen on two separate occasions during his service: prior to his April 2003 deployment to Afghanistan, and upon his return from that deployment in October 2003. Perez’s parents and children are U.S. Citizens.
This is some cold sh**, right? I mean here is a resident alien, a vet with two combat tours, just being swept up off the streets by the jackbooted thugs of ICE and deported.
ICE has arrested a U.S. army veteran who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and has two U.S. citizen children. His name is Miguel Perez Jr. and he has lived in the U.S. since he was 8 years old https://t.co/xheimPemlO
— Spencer Woodman (@spencerwoodman) February 1, 2018
Unfortunately, Duckworth really doesn’t have a leg to stand on in making this argument.
Perez entered the country legally at age 8. He had the opportunity to naturalize at age 18 and elected not to do so. I don’t know whether it was a conscious decision or indifference or ignorance but he didn’t need to serve in the military to become a U. S. citizen.
The executive order Duckworth refers to has a key word. Honorably. Perez received a general discharge for drug use.
Then Perez’s troubles really started.
On Nov. 26, 2008, while with that friend, Perez handed a laptop case containing cocaine to an undercover officer. Perez pleaded guilty to the drug charge and served half of a 15-year prison sentence.
While Perez was convicted of delivering less than 100 grams of cocaine, prosecutors have said he was arrested for delivering much more and received a reduced sentence after a plea deal. Prosecutors also pointed out that Perez was given a general discharge from the military after a drug infraction.
Perez said he discovered the citizenship oversight when he was summoned to immigration court shortly before his September 2016 release from Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg. Instead of heading home to Chicago from prison, Perez was placed in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and transferred to a Wisconsin detention center for immigrants awaiting deportation.
The Houston Chronicle says he actually carried two kilograms of cocaine, so getting it bid down to less than a 100 grams was quite a bargain.
So, to recap. He was eligible to apply for citizenship after his 18th birthday. He didn’t. He was eligible to become a citizen while on active duty. He didn’t. He was kicked out of the military. He was busted with two kilos of coke. He served seven years of a 15-year sentence in a federal prison. He was released. ICE had his green card revoked and ordered him deported. And that is what happened to him.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed Sunday that Perez boarded an ICE Air Operations flight at Gary International Airport and was flown to Brownsville, Texas. There, ICE officers escorted Perez across the U.S.-Mexico border and turned him over to Mexican authorities.
This is an example of the system working as advertised. Perez had his chance to become a U. S. citizen. He took a pass. He had the chance to not deal cocaine. Nope. Couldn’t let that go by. Now he’s paying the price for a lot of bad decisions and, having shot himself in the foot, he’s now complaining because of the pain.