A U.S. Army veteran and green card holder with a felony drug conviction has been denied an opportunity to see his doctor and placed on suicide watch as he enters his fourth week of a hunger strike to protest his likely deportation, advocates said.
Miguel Perez Jr., 39, was placed in solitary confinement at the detention center in Kenosha County, Wis., where he has been held while his lawyer and supporters, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., work to keep him in the country.
Perez served two tours in Afghanistan but was later convicted of felony drug charges and has been ordered deported to his native Mexico, where he hasn't lived since age 8.
Mark Malecki, a spokesman for the Kenosha County sheriff's office, confirmed Friday that Perez had been moved into a "solo cell" as part of "administrative segregation," but said the move was so his diet could be monitored, not for disciplinary reasons.
On Monday, he referred questions to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A spokeswoman could not immediately answer questions.
Advocates said Perez was also scheduled to meet his doctor in the Broadview Detention Center on Tuesday, but officials now have declined to transport him for the exam.
"We were really alarmed by how he sounded," said Sara Walker, a supporter who spoke to Perez on Monday. "I've been talking to him for over a year now and I haven't heard him sound like this. He sounds anxious, depressed and confused."
Perez started a liquid fast more than three weeks ago to protest his deportation as he awaited a ruling regarding a stay of removal filed by his lawyer, Chris Bergin.
He was drinking 8-ounce cartons of milk and bottles of Gatorade each day to balance medications for post-traumatic stress disorder.
In an interview with the Tribune on Saturday, he said he ceased drinking milk when he was moved to a single cell.
The decision to put Perez in segregation prompted outcry from human rights advocates who pointed out that Perez already faced possible separation from his family and friends in the U.S. To isolate him in a single cell amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, they said.
Officials later gave Perez a tablet to make telephone calls over the weekend.
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