United States Army Specialist Yea Ji Sea, a decorated soldier who served as a medic at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, is now in danger of getting deported to South Korea.
After serving the Army for over 4 1/2 years, she was discharged last month due to her immigration status, the Washington Post reports.
“My biggest fear right now is my commander calling [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement],” Sea was quoted as saying.
“I’ve been unofficially warned that ICE might come to pick me up. After 4.5 years, once I get my discharge papers, my reality is ICE might come to pick me up.”
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Sea has now filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for failing to process her naturalization application.
U.S. soldier honored for service could be deported https://t.co/CbV5dKcshX pic.twitter.com/mWaugM2gkO
— Mary Beth Schneider (@marybschneider) August 3, 2018
The 29-year-old health-care specialist first came to the U.S. when she was nine years old in 1998. Aiming to earn her citizenship through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, she joined the Army in 2013.
“I figured I’d join, work for it, get my citizenship and have a chance at a normal life,” Sea said.
After serving in Oklahoma and Texas, she was sent overseas in South Korea, where she was assigned as an ambulance aid driver and pharmacy tech.
Sea soon earned a promotion and two Army Achievement Medals,
“SPC Sea has the drive and professionalism needed to bring the U.S. Army to new heights,” a supervisor wrote in a character assessment. “She represents the best that the Army has to offer: a smart, agile young leader capable of handling immense challenges with marked success.”
According to Sea, she was shocked to find out later that her F-1 student visa was fake. The documentation, which she obtained in 2008 at the Neo-America Language School, had allowed her to stay in the country for the last decade.
“The fraud was actually perpetrated by the corrupt CBP officer,” ACLU attorney Sameer Ahmed said. “She had no idea there was this … document that was put in her student visa application. No one told her.”
The school’s owner had reportedly been bribing a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent to be able to issue fraudulent visas.
In 2013, the CBP officer pleaded guilty to the bribery allegations and was sentenced to six months in prison.
Despite a positive character assessment from her supervisor, Sea was deemed by the U.S. government as a someone who is not of “good moral character” due to the inaccuracy in her naturalization application.
“They knew about the student visa at least since 2014, and she’s been honorably serving the military since then,” Ahmed said.
“Throughout the entire time, they never sought to discharge her. They’re claiming now the reason for discharging her is based on her being an alien, which makes no sense. Everyone in the MAVNI program is an alien.”
In the last few months, there have been over 40 MAVNI participants who have either been discharged or whose status have been put on hold.
“They’re trying to discharge her now, and it’s part of a larger anti-immigration scheme of the Trump administration,” Ahmed pointed out.