March 15, 2018

Duckworth Statement on Miguel Perez, Jr.


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) issued the following statement today regarding the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ decision to deny retroactive citizenship to her fellow combat Veteran, Miguel Perez Jr.:

“Mr. Perez has been detained for months, separated from his family and left without access to the care he needs, deserves and has earned. If the military and our government hadn’t failed Mr. Perez multiple times, he’d never have been in this predicament to begin with. He earned the opportunity to remain in this country when he vowed to defend it in our military, but today’s decision is yet another example of our nation failing him once more. We must do more to address the problems that allow the Trump Administration to deport Veterans from the same country they risked their lives to defend. It’s shameful to turn our backs on those who have the courage to wear the uniform. We can do better than this, and I will continue working to ensure that we do.”

Duckworth wrote several letters of support for Perez’s retroactive citizenship application. The Senator also introduced a private bill last month to help her fellow combat Veteran remain in the United States. Perez is an immigrant who grew up in Illinois and served two tours of duty in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He has lived in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident since the age of 11, but never became a citizen during his time in the military. On July 3, 2002, President George W. Bush signed an executive order authorizing all noncitizens who have served honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces on or after September 11, 2001, to file for U.S. Citizenship. Perez was not offered support from the U.S. Army to Naturalize as a U.S. Citizen on two separate occasions during his service: prior to his April 2003 deployment to Afghanistan, and upon his return from that deployment in October 2003. Perez’s parents and children are U.S. Citizens.

Duckworth has also introduced several bills to prevent Veterans and servicemembers from being deported and denied the opportunity to become citizens of the nation they swore to defend. Her legislation would establish naturalization offices at military training facilities to make it easier for servicemembers to become citizens, prohibit the administration from deporting Veterans and give legal permanent residents a path to citizenship through military service. Duckworth has also co-sponsored legislation to protect military recruits who have enlisted through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program from being discharged or deported due to their immigration status. There are an estimated 1,000 to 1,800 recruits – including hundreds of Dreamers – who have skills that are underrepresented in the U.S. military and are currently waiting for the chance to serve our country and swear allegiance to the United States.