March 21 (UPI) -- An immigration judge has ordered an Army veteran, who served two tours of duty overseas and suffered a brain injury before returning to Chicago, to be deported.
Army Private First Class Miguel Perez, Jr., 38, moved to Chicago from Mexico when he was 8 years old and was a permanent legal resident. He served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, including suffering a brain injury in an explosion.
His attorney, Christopher Bergin told ABC News that Perez "was blown out of his Jeep in Kandaha." He lost much of his hearing and suffers from headaches.
His family and friends said the injury, and the post traumatic stress disorder Perez later developed, made it difficult for him to find work in Chicago. They say he then started selling drugs.
In February 2010, Perez was convicted of selling more than 2 pounds of cocaine.
Perez served seven years in prison and because he is not a U.S. citizen, Immigration Customs Enforcement wants to deport him.
"What Miguel was charged and did a sentence for was a non-violent drug conviction. He never hurt anyone," said Emma Lozano of the Lincoln United Methodist Church said to WGN-TV.
Perez filed a request for relief against deportation orders under the United Nations Convention against Torture because he feared he would be attacked by drug cartels in Mexico because of his military background.
Immigration Judge Robin Rosche turned it down last week, one month after the hearing, but Bergin has filed an appeal. Perez remains in the custody of ICE as the appeal is reviewed.
"Miguel is basically an American in every sense of the word," Bergin said.
Perez was eligible for expedited citizenship under an executive order signed by President George W. Bush in July 2002.
Perez's mother, Esperanza Medina, told ABC News her son never formally filed for citizenship, saying because he misunderstood the rules.
"[The decision] is not fair to us because my son fought for this country," Medina, 60, who became a U.S. citizen in 2005, said of the judge's ruling. "He has a nation and it's the USA."
After his release from Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, Ill., last September, he was placed in the custody of ICE and transferred to a Wisconsin detention center.
"This is the same as somebody fighting a life sentence," Perez told the judge. "The outcome of this determines the rest of my life spent away from my society, my way of life, my loved ones and not to mention, my country. ... This is my country regardless of what happens here."
In December, a spokesperson for ICE released a statement to WLS in Chicago, saying 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 has an 18-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son, who are both citizens.