A U.S. Army veteran deported to Mexico described his final moments on U.S. soil when he spoke to reporters in Tijuana on Tuesday.
"I just feel dirty and used," Miguel Perez, Jr. said. "I felt suicidal."
Perez, 39, served two tours in Afghanistan and had been in the U.S. since age 8. On Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers deported Perez to Mexico.
Perez, who had a green card, was deported because of a 2008 drug-trafficking conviction. The move came after he lost an appeal to remain in the U.S. and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner refused to pardon him.
Perez was flown from Gary, Indiana, to Brownsville, Texas, where officers escorted him across the border and turned him over to Mexican authorities, ICE officials said.
Perez appeared shocked by his treatment during his final moments on U.S. soil.
An ICE agent who described himself as a fellow veteran told Perez they would "fix this" while leading him to a gate, Perez said.
"When we go there he just closed the gate behind me and he said, 'OK, we're done here,'" he said. "He said, 'You see those green lights? You go that way and when you get there just ask for help.'"
Perez recalls thinking, "Really? This is it?"
The veteran said he immediately contemplated suicide but then said he felt he needed to keep walking and continue the fight to let others know how he and other undocumented veterans are treated by the U.S.
Perez's parents, Miguel Sr. and Esperanza Montes Perez, live in Chicago.
Esperanza Perez arrived in Tijuana Monday and appeared with her son at a news conference. She spoke to our sister station Telemundo 20 about her fears for her son.
"I'm more American than those who signed my deportation," Miguel Perez said, wearing a blue cap from the Chicago Cubs team.
Perez handed a laptop case containing 4.4 pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer on Nov. 26, 2008, authorities said. He pleaded guilty to the drug charge and ICE took him into custody after he served half of a 15-year prison sentence.
ICE has said that it is very deliberate in reviewing cases that involve U.S. military veterans and that any action to remove a veteran must have the authorization of senior leadership and an evaluation by chief counsel.