Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday granted clemency to a U.S. Army veteran who was deported to Mexico last year following a drug conviction for delivering cocaine — while blaming the man’s deportation on the “bigoted immigration policy of President Trump and failed leadership of former Governor Rauner.”
Miguel Perez-Montes, who immigrated to Illinois as a child, served 7 1/2 years for a non-violent offense and was deported to Mexico last year, Pritzker’s office said. That conviction came in 2008, with his release in 2016. In late 2016, Perez-Montes argued before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board that a pardon might prevent deportation.
But a pardon was denied by Gov. Bruce Rauner in February 2018. Perez-Montes was deported in March 2018, “without prior contact with his family, left at the Mexican border nearly penniless without clothing or shelter,” the governor’s office said.
“Miguel Perez should not have been deported. The bigoted immigration policy of President Trump and failed leadership of former Governor Rauner have caused unfortunate circumstances for a U.S. veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan,” Pritzker said in a statement Friday. “In evaluating this request for clemency, I recognize this pardon is not a perfect solution, but 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.”
Perez-Montes came to the United States in 1989 as a lawful permanent resident. He was in the country legally when he joined the Army in 2001 before serving two tours in Afghanistan.
In January 2018, a federal appeals panel in Chicago shot down arguments from Perez-Montes, whose lawyers had asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to defer his client’s deportation. A three-judge panel denied Perez-Montes’ petition in a four-page opinion.
The appellate court said his eligibility ended in 2010, when he was convicted of a cocaine offense. He had been held at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Wisconsin after his release from prison in September 2016.
Perez-Montes’ family and supporters blamed his crime on an error in judgment caused by head injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his time in the military. They said it went untreated until he finally received medical attention behind bars.