A Portage Park family is overjoyed Friday after Governor J.B. Pritzker erased the drug conviction of an Army veteran who was deported to Mexico in 2018.
“I am feeling like I’m dreaming,” Esperanza Perez, the man’s mother, said.
That man is Miguel Perez Jr., who was convicted of a drug crime involving cocaine in 2008. The veteran was deported by the United States government last year, but Pritzker’s pardon has paved the way for him to return to the United States.
“This is good news for my son, for us,” Esperanza Perez said. “For his children too.”
Perez immigrated to Chicago when he was 8 years old. He joined the United States Army in 2002 and served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He suffered serious injuries in an explosion during his deployment, and has dealt with severe PTSD after his return from the country.
After his conviction in 2008, Perez served seven and a half years in prison, and after his petition for a pardon was denied, he was deported to Mexico in March 2018.
Now, Perez is poised to return to the United States to try obtain citizenship.
“There’s no words,” he said in a phone interview. “I’ve been crying, and I’ve been laughing.”
As a legal resident, Perez thought his service would expedite his path to citizenship, but that didn’t happen.
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“We now have the city of Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois saying ‘we forgive you,” Perez’s attorney Chris Bergin said.
In a statement, Pritzker acknowledged that his pardon was not “a perfect solution,” but he felt that the action was justified.
“It is the most just action to take to allow a U.S. veteran the opportunity to be treated fairly by the country he served,” Pritzker said in a statement.
The pardon means that Perez is no longer a convicted drug felon in Illinois, and his attorney says that his client has an appointment Sept. 3 for an immigration appeal.