On Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials deported Jose Segovia-Benitez, a Marine Corps combat veteran who served in Iraq, to El Salvador in secret, his attorney said.
Roy Petty, the 38-year-old man’s lawyer, did not learn about his client’s hidden removal until Segovia-Benitez failed to show up at a planned meeting at an ICE facility in Arizona.
“Certainly, this is a surprise,” he told the Phoenix New Times. “ICE kept his deportation a secret. They kept it a secret from him, me, his other attorney, and they kept it a secret from his mother. It’s not common practice.”
Rather than notifying Segovia-Benitez of his impending deportation, which Petty said is common practice, ICE allegedly “woke him up and put him on a plane.”
The veteran, who served two tours in Iraq, was honorably discharged in 2004, a year after suffering a brain injury. In 2011, seven years after he was discharged from the military, Segovia-Benitez was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. By then, however, his family said he had been self-medicating with alcohol, which got him in trouble with the law. Among several arrests, Segovia-Benitez served years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon and injuring a spouse.
While his family doesn’t condone his actions, they believe the government did not adequately care for him after his was discharged. Now they fear that Segovia-Benitez will be targeted in El Salvador, a country he left when he was a toddler.
“What would certainly be horrible would be if he were kidnapped or killed in El Salvador,” Petty said. “… Gangs target former U.S. military. They’ll kidnap a person, they may hold a person for ransom, they may torture an individual.”