The Perez deportation shows we have failed our veterans

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Esperanza Perez, mother of Miguel Perez, a veteran who is facing deportation to Mexico, is comforted by Luis Retamal after receiving news that her son was denied U.S. citizenship. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials confirmed Monday, Monday, March 26, 2018 that Miguel Perez has been deported to Mexico because of a 2008 drug-trafficking conviction. (Antonio Perez/AP)

Esperanza Perez, mother of Miguel Perez, a veteran who is facing deportation to Mexico, is comforted by Luis Retamal after receiving news that her son was denied U.S. citizenship. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials confirmed Monday, Monday, March 26, 2018 that Miguel Perez has been deported to Mexico because of a 2008 drug-trafficking conviction. (Antonio Perez/AP)

Not only can we not take care of our veterans, but now we are deporting them as well. According a story by CNN, a U.S. Army veteran has been deported back to Mexico as told in a statement by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The veteran, Michael Perez, served two tours in Afghanistan in the early 2000s before receiving a general discharge for smoking marijuana on base. Perez’s green card was cancelled in 2010 because of a felony drug charge and he was eventually deported under these conditions. Perez has tried to fight his deportation claiming that his drug use was caused by PTSD and that he fears for his safety in Mexico.

Perez, 39, legally came to the United States from Mexico when he was eight years old with his father who was coming for work. Perez enlisted in the Army in 2001 just before 9/11. His first tour ran from October 2002 to April 2003 and his second ran from May to October 2003. His lawyer says that he believed by enlisting, he would gain his citizenship. Unfortunately that wasn’t case and after giving cocaine to an undercover officer, Perez’s green-card was canceled and he was sentenced to 15 year in prison. After serving about half of that time, ICE began processing him for deportation. Perez leaves behind a lot of his family, including two daughters, when he returns to Mexico.

Did anyone else read this and just feel uncomfortable? We sent someone to fight a war, didn’t give him the rights we give all of our citizens, and then tossed him aside without a second thought. I get shivers down my spine just thinking about it.

If you want play devil’s advocate, yes Perez use drugs and that is a felony. However, the statistics were against him the moment he signed his name and put on a uniform. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, about 11 to 20 percent of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or Operation Enduring Freedom experience some form of PTSD after serving. To make matters worse, according the VA, 20 percent of veterans with PTSD will have a substance abuse disorder and 10 percent of soldiers seen in the VA who served in Iraq and Afghanistan had a substance abuse problem.

These are staggering and terrifying numbers. We aren’t talking about small portions of a given population. We are talking about a tenth or sometimes even a fifth of soldiers having issues dealing with PTSD and substance abuse. This isn’t some kind small problem. This is a disease that is destroying a vulnerable and important community within the United States.

The United States is known for having one of the strongest and most impressive militaries in the world. It has bases and is involved with conflicts all around the world. As such the military has tried to recruit from different walks of life and from different countries. Immigrants were recruited with a promise that they would be granted naturalization. As an article in BuzzFeed points out, that isn’t always the case. Some get their citizenship opportunity drawn out and others like Perez just face deportation.

What is wrong with us as a country? We start problems and violent wars across the world. Then we send our soldiers into these self-made hellholes in order to clean things up. We cause them physical and mental trauma, document the effects and then let them turn into statistics. As a nation we place such pride in our military. We hold parades for them, honor them on specific holidays throughoutthe year and hold moments of silence for the fallen during our sports game.

However, none of that actually does anything to help them when they return home. We basically treat them like second-class citizens. Many of them, as the statistics show, turn to drugs like Perez did in order to cope. Seems like our priorities aren’t really in order. Instead of funneling money into random displays of power and expanding our military, we should be doing something to help all of our soldiers who have problems, no matter their background.   

This is not an immigration issue. It is a human rights issue and a veteran’s affairs issue. If we can’t do right by our veterans, citizen or not, then maybe we should stop sending them into hellholes and stop acting like we as a nation as are better than we are.


Amar Batra is a senior staff photographer and weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email amar.batra@uconn.edu. He tweets at @amar_batra19.

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