Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is moving forward with deporting veteran and Chinese immigrant Xilong Zhu, ignoring a directive from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that would otherwise allow the immigrant to stay.
According to the Washington Post, Zhu immigrated to the U.S. from China in 2009 to attend college. After graduating from Wisconsin’s Beloit College in 2013, he decided he wanted to become a U.S. citizen. After some careful research, his father suggested the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which offers expedited citizenship to immigrants with language and medical skills.
Zhu began the enlistment process only to find that the program had been temporarily shelved. Still determined to gain citizenship, he sought advice through U.S. Quickly, an organization that advises immigrants who wish to become U.S. citizens. The company suggested Zhu enroll in the University of Northern New Jersey to gain a student visa and use his newfound legal status to enlist in the Army. The school, he was told, would accept the training he had received during his employment with Apple as school credit.
With everything seemingly checking out, Zhu enrolled in the school, paying the agreed upon $8,000 tuition. The school certified his studies and issued an I-20 form, which he used to obtain a driver’s license. With these documents, he enlisted in the military, well on his way to legal citizenship.
Unbeknownst to Zhu, the university was part of a dragnet established by the Department of Homeland Security to catch fraudulent student visa brokers. ICE was called to detain Zhu, who had already entered into basic training. He was ordered to be released from the Army on the charge of alleged visa fraud. The Army fought back but ultimately complied, and on November 16, 2016, he left Fort Benning, Georgia in handcuffs as an honorably discharged veteran.
Although the mass deportation proceedings of non-citizens falls in line with President Trump’s desire to remove undocumented immigrants from the country, Mattis had offered protection to veterans like Zhu. “Anyone with an honorable discharge … will not be subject to any kind of deportation,” he said in Feruary.
Although individual cases would be taken into account, such as criminal backgrounds, Zhu’s attorney asserts those exceptions do not apply to his client, who did everything in his power to gain citizenship legally. His attorney believes he’s the victim of federal entrapment, as he didn’t know that the school was fake. Additionally, laws dating back to World War I allow immigrants who have served in the military to obtain citizenship, so long as they are honorably discharged.
“Xilong Zhu, a citizen and national of China, was admitted to the U.S. as an F-1 nonimmigrant student in August 2013, but failed to maintain or comply with the conditions of his nonimmigrant status,” an ICE spokesperson told The Hill. “As a result, on Nov. 10, 2016, ICE issued him a notice to appear in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act. His immigration proceedings are ongoing.”
Zhu now awaits a judge’s ruling on his removal.
Feature Image via FaceBook / Xilong Zhu (via Washington Post)