Miguel Perez Jr., a veteran who was deported then allowed back into the country and gained citizenship following a state pardon, will attend the State of the Union address Tuesday evening as a guest of U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Perez, who became an American citizen in October, was deported in 2018 after serving a 7-year prison sentence for a felony drug conviction. He had been living in the Mexican border town of Tijuana following his deportation. Perez was raised in Chicago and joined the Army before 9/11 where he served with a Special Forces unit in Afghanistan.
Traditionally, the State of the Union address is an opportunity for politicians to showcase special guests representing causes their offices advocate for. Members of Congress each get one ticket to bring a guest to the speech.
Perez received a pardon by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker in August and became a citizen months later.
“Miguel’s story shows strength and perseverance, but it also represents a failure of our immigration system: deporting veterans who served their country. The Trump Administration doesn’t even know how many veterans have been deported. While the vets appeal their cases outside the United States, they don’t have access to their military benefits. Miguel’s presence in Washington will highlight the cruelty of our immigration system,” Garcia said in a statement.
A number of Illinois politicians are bringing state residents to the address:
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten will be in attendance with German-American scientist Dr. Dieter Martin Gruen; U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth will be bringing Celeste Flores, an Illinois-based environmental justice advocate; U.S. Rep Lauren Underwood announced her guest will be Karen Battaglia, a trauma coordinator at Northwestern Medicine McHenry; and U.S. Rep Dan Lipinski will be with chef and small business owner Bertha Montes Garcia, who owns Xocome Antojeria in Archer Heights.
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