The Illinois Prisoner Review Board is being asked to intervene on behalf of an Army veteran with a green card who faces deportation because of a 2008 drug conviction.
Advocates for Miguel Perez Jr. want the board to recommend that Gov. Bruce Rauner issue a pardon. They hope the Department of Homeland Security will then grant the 38-year-old Perez citizenship retroactively from when he joined the military in 2001.
Perez served two tours in Afghanistan. He’s being held a Wisconsin detention center where he awaits deportation to Mexico.
Perez pleaded guilty to a drug charge for handing a laptop case containing cocaine to an undercover officer. He served half of a 15-year prison sentence.
The Cook County State’s Attorney, who’s about as far from a Trump-loving, immigrant-bashing politico as you can get, opposes clemency.
* More background and why the state’s attorney is opposed to the pardon…
Perez arrived in the country at age 11. Despite being a green card holder and serving two tours in Afghanistan, the Chicago resident never applied for citizenship. So when Perez was convicted of selling drugs after he left the Army, he was targeted for deportation.
At Thursday’s hearing, a representative for the state’s attorney said they opposed forgiving Perez’s crime and cited the amount of cocaine that Perez sold which was 4.4 pounds.
A spokesperson for veterans blamed PTSD for Perez’s drug addiction.
“Mr. Perez was exposed to a lot of trauma that aggravated any addiction he had,” Carlos Luna, president of Veterans Rebuilding Community, Inc., said.
Whew, that’s a lot of cocaine.
* The Tribune has more…
“We cannot lose track of the specific facts of this case, which is why we are opposing executive clemency,” assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Peter Goutos told the review board Thursday. “We must hold the big drug dealers accountable.”
While Perez was convicted of delivering less than 100 grams of cocaine, Goutos said he was arrested for delivering much more and received a reduced sentence after a plea deal. Goutos also pointed out that Perez was given a general discharge from the military after a drug infraction and was arrested for misdemeanor cannabis possession as a teenager. […]
After returning to Chicago after his military service, he sought treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Maywood, where doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was supposed to return for more tests to determine whether he also had a traumatic brain injury. But the hours of waiting and slow progress took its toll.
In the meantime, he reconnected with a childhood friend who provided free drugs and alcohol. On the night of 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.
And soon his fate could be in Gov. Rauner’s hands. The governor has done his best to distance himself from the president’s stances on immigration. Actually, he’s done his best to distance himself from the president, period. He’s also demonstrated time and time again that he favors second chances and reduced penalties for non-violent criminals. He’s a politician, so that alone guarantees that Perez’s military service in a theater of war is an issue.
But busted cold handing 4.4 pounds of cocaine to a cop is a tough one for any governor.
* And it may not matter either way…
In a statement released Thursday, the state’s attorney’s office said its opposition to a pardon did not equate to support for Perez’s deportation. His immigration proceedings are a separate matter.
“Regardless of the outcome of Mr. Perez’s clemency hearing, he is still subject to removal by the federal government,” the statement said. “Mr. Perez’s case is an unfortunate reminder of the need for immigration reform, particularly when it comes to veterans who have served our country.”