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Advocates Plead For Leniency As War Veteran With Drug Conviction Faces Deportation

(CBS) – A war veteran from Chicago who served two tours in Afghanistan is now facing deportation.

On Thursday, a judge will decide his fate.

CBS 2's Audrina Bigos reports on the fight for him to stay here -- and the criminal record that's getting in the way.

After 9/11, Miguel Perez embraced the Army's ideals: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and courage. But because he was born in Mexico and brought to the U.S. as a child, his commitment came with a catch: If ever convicted of a felony, he would be deported.

"He made the mistake of selling some cocaine on one occasion to an undercover officer. He was convicted, served his time," Perez attorney Chris Bergin says.

Perez self-medicated while suffering from PTSD, he says. Perez served his seven-year sentence, and his advocates say he is rehabilitated and ready to come home.

"This war veteran should not be deported to a country that he knows little about. He is, for all practical purposes, an American who has served with distinction," Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia says.

This last-minute plea to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also comes with a prayer for the Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan.

"If they deport him," retired Sgt. Maj. John Adams says, "My valor's coming off. I'm never putting the uniform on again."

A federal judge is considering Perez's case.

ICE officials released the following statement about Perez's case:

"Miguel Angel Perez-Montes, 38, from Mexico, was convicted in February 2010 in Cook County, Illinois, for manufacture/delivery of more than two pounds of cocaine and sentenced to serve 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He was encountered by ICE while serving his prison sentence and placed into removal proceedings in 2012. On Sept. 23, 2016 Perez-Montes was turned over to ICE custody from the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, Illinois. He will remain in ICE custody while his removal proceedings are pending in federal immigration court.

ICE respects the service and sacrifice of those in military service, and is very deliberate in its review of cases involving U.S. military veterans. Any action taken by ICE that may result in the removal of an alien with military service must be authorized by the senior leadership in a field office, following an evaluation by local counsel. ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion, when appropriate, on a case-by-case basis for members of the armed forces who have honorably served our country. ICE specifically identifies service in the U.S. military as a positive factor that should be considered when deciding whether or not prosecutorial discretion should be exercised. Still, applicable law requires ICE to mandatorily detain and process for removal individuals who have been convicted of aggravated felonies as defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act."

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