CHICAGO (CBS) — Miguel Perez, a U.S. Army veteran who was deported to Mexico last year over a 2010 drug conviction, has been granted citizenship, two weeks after an immigration hearing in Chicago.

Perez served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, and suffered a traumatic brain injury after being injured in an explosion. He has said post-traumatic stress disorder contributed to his drug addiction and ultimately his conviction on cocaine delivery charges.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison, and that conviction led immigration authorities to revoke his green card, deny him citizenship, and ultimately deport him.

Perez was allowed to return to the U.S. last month on a two-week permit to reapply for citizenship, after Gov. JB Pritzker granted him a full pardon in August.

Miguel Perez Jr. holds his certificate of naturalization after being granted U.S. citizenship. The Army veteran initially was denied citizenship in 2010 after a drug conviction, but he was granted a pardon in 2019, and later won his citizenship. (Credit: Emma Lozano)

Perez and his attorney met with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Chicago on Sept. 25 to make their case for citizenship, citing his pardon from Pritzker.

On Friday, he won his case and was sworn in as a citizen, according to his pastor, Emma Lozano, who shared a photo of him holding his certificate of naturalization.

“I fought for the country,” Perez said on Friday afternoon. “I fought for the flag. I fought for the constitution and today the constitution responded by saying welcome home.”

As an Army veteran, Perez was supposed to receive an expedited path to citizenship under a 2002 executive order issued by President George W. Bush, but due to an oversight he was not.

 

His family members, including two children and parents, live in Illinois and are U.S. citizens.

Perez said if he got to stay, he wanted to work with the advocates who helped with plight, including getting the governor’s pardon. But closest to his heart is the chance to help other veterans who were deported.

“I see how some live. I just happen to be back right now. But everybody else, they’re not home.”