Miguel Perez Jr. took his oath in a naturalization ceremony in Chicago, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“Here it is,” he said, holding up his citizenship certificate. “It’s been a long journey, a long battle.”
In 2008, he was accused of giving a laptop case of cocaine to an undercover police officer. He took a plea deal and served more than seven years in prison for a nonviolent drug conviction. Perez’s citizenship application was tossed in 2010 following the conviction.
After serving his sentence, authorities turned him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which detained him for two years. He was deported to Mexico last year.
He had been living in the border city of Tijuana. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker pardoned him in August, which erased the conviction, in an effort to allow him to apply for citizenship.
“Miguel Perez should not have been deported,” the Democratic governor said at the time. “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.”
Immigration officials allowed Perez to return to the U.S. for two weeks last month to attend a Chicago immigration hearing.
On Friday, Perez said he plans to stay in Chicago to spend time with his family and advocate for “those that are left behind.”
Source: Politico Usa News