South Korean Born US Soldier Set For ICE Custody In Immigration Crackdown
Yea Ji Sea, a decorated US Army Medic, is due to be discharged from her position due to her immigration status.
Originally born in South Korea, Sea came to the United States aged 9 through a visitor’s visa in 1998. She joined the US army at the age of 26 to earn her US citizenship. There was a program allowing service members to earn this through an active duty within the US army.
Despite becoming a well-decorated service member in her 4 and half year stint as a soldier, her naturalisation application had always had a hindrance on her progress, and now that progress is no longer possible as she’s been honourably discharged from her duties.
Sea had always been optimistic about her chances of success in the service, with continuous reassurance from the Army that by putting the country and them first, she would always feel wanted for her skills and dedication to the cause.
However, news of her discharge has slowly drained away all the optimism that she once had. She explains how she regrets believing that the army wouldn’t take into account her status when fulfilling her service, stating that she “believed them because I was stupid”.
In response to the news of her discharge, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sea to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services. The legal document argues that Sea’s naturalisation application had been unrightfully processed and ordered that a judge forces the government to make a decision on the matter within 20 days.
The situation has escalated beyond critical due to the timescale in which her discharge is due to take place. Without a valid immigration status, the will be unable to work and runs the risk of being deported. This would involve ICE coming to the base and escorting Sea out of the base in custody.
The idea of obtaining a citizenship is what drew Sea to the military service. Under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program (MAVNI), noncitizens could work for their citizenship through military service if they were lawfully present in the country.
She enrolled back in October 2013 and had a successful time in the service, excelling in training and earning promotions and medals through her work.
However, a problem with her visa would hinder gaining citizenship. In 2008 when she applied for her F-1 student visa from the National America Language School, the school’s owner was actually working with corrupt agents who would stamp visas for bribes.
Unaware that the visas were fraudulent, ICE declared the school as an approved program making her believe that the paperwork was legitimate, when in fact, her application had a different date to when she entered the country.
Others in a similar situation have also been discharged within the past year or so and despite knowing of the student visa since 2014, it is only now that they have chosen to discharge her because of the MAVNI program.
Now, Sea is facing the reality that all of her hard work is getting washed away as she rushes to pack her belongings into boxes.