Veteran threatened with deportation seeks pardon for crime

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Miguel Perez poses last year as he holds a photo of his son Miguel Perez-Motes. in Chicago.
Perez-Montes is an Army veteran who had his appeal over his pending deportation denied this week. | AFP

CHICAGO — 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 in a Wisconsin detention center where he awaits deportation to Mexico.

“I’m pretty much asking for forgiveness and hope they get the right message to Gov. Rauner,” Perez said.

Perez handed a laptop case containing 4.4 pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer on Nov. 26, 2008. He pleaded guilty to the drug charge and served half of a 15-year prison sentence.

Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Peter Goutos told the review board on Thursday that his office opposes clemency for Perez.

“We cannot lose track of the specific facts of this case, which is why we are opposing executive clemency,” Goutos said. “We must hold the big drug dealers accountable.”

Chris Bergin, Perez’s attorney, told the board that Perez accepts responsibility for the crime. He said Perez is getting psychological help and medication in custody.

“He’s somewhat back to the old Miguel and he understands how terrible it was, that decision, that drugs can be used to destroy a lot of lives,” Bergin said.

Members of the review board were expected to in closed-door sessions to decide what they’ll recommend to the governor. The board’s guidance remains confidential unless Gov. Rauner discloses it.

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