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State

Rauner denies clemency to Army veteran facing deportation

Green card holder has a felony drug conviction

Miguel Perez Sr. (center) and his wife, Esperanza, arrive at a hearing for their son, Army veteran Miguel Perez Jr., on Monday. Perez holds the flag his son gave him after his return from Afghanistan. This flag was used in Kandahar, where he served, and was given to him for his service. Miguel Perez, a Mexican-born legal permanent resident of the U.S. and a decorated Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan, may have to be deported to his native Mexico, where he hasn't lived for 30 years.
Miguel Perez Sr. (center) and his wife, Esperanza, arrive at a hearing for their son, Army veteran Miguel Perez Jr., on Monday. Perez holds the flag his son gave him after his return from Afghanistan. This flag was used in Kandahar, where he served, and was given to him for his service. Miguel Perez, a Mexican-born legal permanent resident of the U.S. and a decorated Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan, may have to be deported to his native Mexico, where he hasn't lived for 30 years.

CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has denied clemency for an Army veteran and green card holder with a felony drug conviction, according to both the man’s lawyer and his mother, who said she got the news in a letter from the governor’s office Wednesday.

Advocates had hoped a pardon from the governor would encourage the government to grant citizenship to Miguel Perez Jr., retroactive to when he joined the military in 2001. His attorney, Chris Bergin, applied for citizenship on Perez’s behalf in July.

That retroactive application for citizenship is the only pathway left for Perez, 39, after a three-judge panel for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request for relief under the United Nations Convention against Torture, a protection that resembles asylum. He and human rights advocates believe his life would be in danger if he were sent back to Mexico, where he hasn’t lived since age 8.

Bergin and Perez’s mother, Esperanza Montes Perez, said Rauner turned down the clemency request. Rauner’s office did not respond to questions on the matter.

But in the letter, the office said the family could file a new petition after Jan. 31, 2019. “Although the [Prisoner Review Board] and the governor do not disclose the reasoning behind a decision to grant or deny clemency, please know that we did not make the decision lightly,” the letter said.

Perez served two tours in Afghanistan with the Army.

As is the case with many other green card-holding veterans, Perez, a father of two children who are U.S. citizens, mistakenly thought he became a U.S. citizen when he took an oath to protect the nation. Military superiors never offered to help him expedite his citizenship, he said.

Perez discovered the oversight when he was summoned to immigration court shortly before his release last year from Hill Correctional Center in downstate Galesburg. Instead of heading home to Chicago from prison, Perez was placed in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and transferred to the Wisconsin detention center for immigrants awaiting deportation.

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©2018 Chicago Tribune

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