Deported Army veteran returns to the U.S. seeking citizenship

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LAREDO, Texas (CNN) — A U.S. Army veteran who was deported in March of 2018 re-entered the United States from Mexico on Monday.

Miguel Perez, who served two tours in Afghanistan, is hoping to gain what he has sought for so long: U.S. citizenship.

His deportation came after authorities denied his citizenship application because of a felony drug conviction in 2010.

Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker pardoned Perez last month.

He was allowed to cross the border after U.S. Customs and Border Protection gave him a 14-day parole to attend a citizenship appointment.

Perez’s patriotism Monday was impossible to miss. He was draped in one American flag and carrying another.

There’s no words to describe it. First and foremost, I feel blessed,” Perez said. “I want to take this opportunity to thank God because without the most high, I mean I wouldn’t be here. And I want to thank everybody that he put in my path, from the Pastor Emma, Pastor Julie, … Green Card Veterans. Governor J.B. Pritzker, because without him I wouldn’t have the pardon and I wouldn’t be standing here. Senator Tammy Duckworth, Luis Gutierrez, Congressman Trey Garcia. … It’s so many people involved. it was a whole team effort that we’ll be here all day if we start naming names. And in a nutshell, I want to thank my community in Chicago and the great state of Illinois for putting in so much work and all the other people across the country that rallied and wrote letters and outstanding, outstanding people.”

Perez’s lawyer tells CNN he hopes the citizenship decision will come as soon as Wednesday. Immigration officials gave Perez a two-week waiver to attend his citizenship hearing on Wednesday.

Perez was sentenced to 15 years for charges related to delivering more than two pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer. His term was half-finished when deportation proceedings began.

Perez blamed PTSD from his deployments for his drug addiction and conviction.

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