A U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan has been deported to Mexico, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
The deportation follows an earlier decision by US authorities to deny Miguel Perez's citizenship application because of a felony drug conviction, despite his service and the PTSD he says it caused.
Perez, 39, was escorted across the US-Mexico border from Texas and handed over to Mexican authorities Friday, ICE said in a statement.
Perez, his family and supporters, who include Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, had argued that his wartime service to the country had earned him the right to stay in the United States and to receive mental health treatment for the PTSD and substance abuse.
"This case is a tragic example of what can happen when national immigration policies are based more in hate than on logic and ICE doesn't feel accountable to anyone," Duckworth said in a statement following reports of Perez's deportation. "At the very least, Miguel should have been able to exhaust all of his legal options before being rushed out of the country under a shroud of secrecy."
Perez was born in Mexico and legally came to the United States at age 8 when his father, Miguel Perez Sr., a semi-pro soccer player, moved the family to Chicago because of a job offer, Perez told CNN earlier. He has two children born in the United States. His parents and one sister are now naturalized American citizens, and another sister is an American citizen by birth.
It's a complicated case. Perez has said that what he saw and experienced in Afghanistan sent his life off the rails, leading to heavy drinking, a drug addiction and ultimately to his felony conviction.
"After the second tour, there was more alcohol and that was also when I tried some drugs," Perez said last month. "But the addiction really started after I got back to Chicago, when I got back home, because I did not feel very sociable."
In 2010, he was convicted in Cook County, Illinois, on charges related to delivering more than 2 pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer. He was sentenced to 15 years and his green card was revoked. He had served half his sentence when ICE began deportation proceedings. He had been in the agency's custody since 2016.
Perez has said he was surprised to be in ICE detention and mistakenly believed that enlisting in the Army would automatically give him US citizenship, according to his lawyer, Chris Bergin. His retroactive application for citizenship was denied earlier this month. While there are provisions for expediting troops' naturalization process, a main requirement is that the applicant demonstrate "good moral character," and the drug conviction was enough to sway the decision against his application, Bergin said.
Perez enlisted in the Army in 2001, just months before 9/11. He served in Afghanistan from October 2002 to April 2003 and again from May to October 2003, according to his lawyer. He left the Army in 2004 with a general discharge after he was caught smoking marijuana on base.
Perez went on a hunger strike earlier this year, saying he feared deportation would mean death. Aside from not getting the treatment he needs, he told CNN that he fears Mexican drug cartels will try to recruit him because of his combat experience and will murder him if he doesn't cooperate.
"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?" he asked.
Speaking of kicking people out of the country, The United States, European Union countries, Canada and Ukraine expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats on Monday in response to Russia's alleged use of a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy living in the United Kingdom.
President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats the US identified as intelligence agents and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, the most forceful action Trump has taken against Russia to date. Of those being expelled, 48 of the alleged intelligence agents work at the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 are posted at the United Nations in New York, senior administration officials said.
Trump took the action after the US joined the United Kingdom in accusing Russia of attempting earlier this month to murder a former Russian double agent and his daughter using a nerve agent in the town of Salisbury, England. The action comes just 11 days after the Trump administration leveled the first sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
"The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world in response to Russia's use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
"Today's actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia's ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America's national security. With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences," she said. "The United States stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government's behavior."
Sanders also added that the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle was tied to the consulate's "proximity to one of our submarine bases and Boeing." A senior administration official declined to say whether the US believes Russian agents were spying on US submarine bases.
The consulate closure and the expulsion of dozens of diplomats came on the heels of the UK's expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats. Fourteen European Union member states, Canada and Ukraine also moved on Monday to expel Russian diplomats.
Ukraine expelled 13 Russian diplomats over the incident. Canada, Germany, France and Poland each expelled four Russian diplomats. Italy, Estonia, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania and Finland also expelled between one and three diplomats each.
"Additional measures, including further expulsions ... are not to be excluded in the coming days and weeks," European Council President Donald Tusk said Monday, speaking in Bulgaria.
He said the European Council agreed with the UK "that it is highly likely the Russian Federation is responsible" for the poisoning.
"We remain critical of the actions of the Russian government," Tusk added.
Senior Trump administration officials said the actions were being taken not only as a direct response to that attack, but also to rebuke Russia's "steady drumbeat of destabilizing actions."
The actions came less than a week after Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his reelection. Trump did not raise the nerve agent attack during the call, and senior administration officials said the two leaders have not spoken since.
But a senior administration official said the United States' retaliatory action was "absolutely" Trump's decision, saying it was "something he was involved in from the beginning and that he personally made after several meetings with his team last week."
The expulsion still leaves dozens of Russian intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover in the US. A senior administration official said the US estimates more than 100 Russian intelligence officers are currently in the US.
Russia said earlier on Monday it planned to retaliate against the US if its diplomats were expelled, with a Kremlin spokesman saying "the principle of reciprocity will be enforced" before the US announced its plans to expel Russians.
The move comes about 15 months after the Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.