Miguel Perez Jr., a 39-year-old US Army veteran who has been in the United States for 30 years and served two tours of service in Afghanistan, is being held in an ICE detainment center with possible deportation to Mexico.
Much has been made of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since Trump took office over a year ago. The government agency has taken up aggressive and ideological tactics, deporting people who have lived in the country for decades, separating families, and neglecting detainees in custody.
For Perez, who is being held in a detainment center near Kenosha, Wisconsin, deportation means taking him away from his family, losing necessary treatment for PTSD and anxiety, and the threat of violence in Mexico.
Perez, who started a hunger strike last week to protest his case, told CNN about what awaits him if he is deported:
“If they are sentencing me to a certain death, and I am going to die, then why die in a place that I have not considered my home in a long time? There is a saying that goes, ‘I’d rather die like a man than live like a coward.’ In Mexico, I will have to live in fear, like a coward. No. I’d rather die right here, like a man fighting against something that makes no sense — this thing of deporting veterans does not make sense even if they try to justify with the law.”
The veteran’s situation is complicated by the fact that he was convicted of felony drug trafficking and discharged from the army for drug use. In 2010, Perez delivered over two pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
But in prison, Perez was actually able to get the proper treatment for his PTSD, substance abuse, and finish his associate’s degree. Perez told CNN:
“It was in prison that I was finally able to get the treatment I needed for my PTSD. They had a lot of substance abuse programs, and now is when I finally feel like the person I used to be. I won’t say a new person, but like when I was younger.”
Perez’s frustration with his situation is obvious, and pretty damn understandable:
“I went through the system and I accepted all of the consequences that came with declaring myself guilty of a crime, the way it should be. And now they want to deport me with nothing, without thinking to themselves that I sacrificed my life fighting for this country.”
ICE said in a statement that they take military service into account on a case-by-case basis:
“Respects the service and sacrifice of those in military service, and is very deliberate in its review of cases involving US military veterans. Any action taken by ICE that may result in the removal of an alien with military service must be authorized by the senior leadership in a field office, following an evaluation by the office of chief counsel… ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion, when appropriate, on a case-by-case basis for members of the armed forces who have served our country. ICE specifically identifies service in the US military as a positive factor that is considered when deciding whether or not prosecutorial discretion should be exercised.”
Surely even the most intense border hawks in our country don’t think deporting a veteran suffering with PTSD back to violence in Mexico is a reasonable policy. Perez’s case has sparked outrage, especially with the optics of Trump’s own military deferral for “bone spurs.”