After two tours in Afghanistan, US Army vet deported to Mexico

Sen. Tammy Duckworth had taken up Miguel Perez's cause.

He served two combat tours in Afghanistan.

It marks the end of a five-year fight for former Army Pfc. Perez, 38, who his family says mistakenly believed his military service made him a U.S. citizen by default.

Perez was flown from Gary, Ind., to Brownsville, Texas, Friday where he was escorted across the U.S.-Mexico border and handed over to Mexican authorities, an ICE statement said.

After being discharged from the Army, Perez pleaded guilty to selling cocaine and served about seven years in prison.

Perez’s mother, Esperanza Medina, told ABC News her son never formally filed for citizenship because he misunderstood the rules governing the process. As a result, Perez was placed into removal proceedings by ICE in 2012 while serving his prison sentence.

Perez’s lawyer and family attribute his conviction to a period when Perez was self-medicating for pain related to his time in the service, they said.

After returning home from Afghanistan, Perez told the Tribune he longed for the adrenaline rush from combat and eventually turned to cocaine. He ultimately opted for an early discharge from the Army after failing a drug test, he told the Tribune.

"He told me that when he made that mistake he was drinking and doing drugs 24/7," Walker said.

ICE officials say the agency respects the service and sacrifice of those in military service and is very deliberate in its review of cases involving U.S. military veterans.

Perez’s story became a cause celebre, with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D.-Ill., fighting on his behalf. Upon news of the deportation, Duckworth released a statement Saturday saying, “This case is a tragic example of what can happen when national immigration policies are based more in hate than on logic and ICE doesn’t feel accountable to anyone. At the very least, Miguel should have been able to exhaust all of his legal options before being rushed out of the country under a shroud of secrecy."