Jose Segovia-Benitez, a 38-year-old Marine Corps combat veteran who served in Iraq, was deported to El Salvador – a country where he hasn’t lived since he was a toddler – on Wednesday.
Segovia-Benitez’s attorney Roy Petty told the Phoenix New Times that he didn’t find out Segovia-Benitez had been deported until after he arrived for a planned meeting with his client at the ICE facility in Arizona where he was being held.
“Certainly, this is a surprise,” he told the paper Wednesday. “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.
“Generally, what ICE will do is they will notify the person so the person can make arrangements. They woke him up and put him on a plane,” he continued.
An ICE spokeswoman confirmed Segovia-Benitez’s deportation in a statement to The Hill on Wednesday.
“Mr. Segovia-Benitez was removed to his home country Oct. 23 in accordance with federal law and the policies and procedures of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” she said.
She also noted that shortly after an immigration judge ordered Segovia-Benitez’s removal, he “subsequently appealed his case with the Board of Immigration Appeals, which denied the appeal.”
“He also filed two stay requests with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, both of which were denied,” she added.
The report is the latest update in a high-profile deportation case that has garnered widespread attention in recent weeks.
Segovia-Benitez was a combat veteran for the Marine Corps who served two tours in Iraq before he was honorably discharged in 2004, a year after he suffered a brain injury. The veteran also received a number of decorations for his service during his time in the military, according to NBC News.
But after he was discharged from the military, Segovia-Benitez began to self-medicate with alcohol, his family said, which led to trouble with authorities. He ended up having to serve time in prison for a variety of crimes, including assault with a deadly weapon and injuring a spouse, for which he received an 8-year prison sentence.
However, while Segovia-Benitez’s family has argued that while they do not condone his criminal actions, they believe the government failed to provide adequate care for him after he was discharged.
Brandee Dudzic, executive director of the group Repatriate our Patriots, told ABC News that Segovia-Benitez wasn’t diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder until 2011, or seven years after he was discharged from the military.
His lawyer told the Phoenix New Times that his team is still working on his case and hopes “that ICE will correct this problem and allow him to come back to fight his case.”
“What would certainly be horrible would be if he were kidnapped or killed in El Salvador before that,” Petty said while expressing concern that Segovia-Benitez, who doesn’t speak Spanish fluently, could be targeted in El Salvador.
“Gangs target former U.S. military,” he told the paper. “They’ll kidnap a person, they may hold a person for ransom, they may torture an individual.”