Immigration authorities may still deport a long-time U.S. resident and Iraq War veteran.
Chong Kim was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 5 years old. He faces deportation for the crimes he committed after he returned from deployment in Iraq.
Although U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not reveal the status of Kim's immigration status, a representative from the department's Seattle Field Office released a statement, reports KGW:
Chong Hwan Kim is a South Korean national who was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) April 5 after it was determined he has a prior felony conviction in Multnomah County for attempt to commit arson in the first degree, among other charges. Mr. Kim remains in ICE detention at this time while his immigration case undergoes review by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the Department of Justice agency which administers the nation's immigration courts.
After serving in the U.S. military and being honorably discharged in 2010, Kim became addicted to drugs, sometimes shoplifting to feed himself.
He was convicted of first-degree burglary for attempting to steal groceries, and later convicted of felony arson for throwing a lit beer bottle full of gasoline against a wall behind a store.
"I was not in the right state of mind," explained Kim of his second conviction, according to The Guardian.
The sentencing for his second conviction required him to attend a residential substance abuse program run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
After he was sober, he got a job as a janitor at a VA hospital.
"It was the first time in my life I was hopeful," said Kim of his effort to turn his life around.
Perry Gastineau, a veteran who served alongside Kim, vouched for Kim's efforts to better himself.
"He had kind of worked around it to be on a better path, or so I thought," said Gastineau, according to KGW. "It's really sad to see something from the past come up and bite him when he was trying to do better."
Tim Warden-Hertz, Kim's attorney, spoke on his client's behalf.
"It's hard to imagine a more clear example of someone being a part of a country than putting their life on the line for it," said Warden-Hertz, The Guardian reports. "There's this hidden process of deporting veterans."
Kim has had post-traumatic stress disorder since being discharged from the military. He has attended support groups to manage his condition.
Fellow veteran Jordan Meyers, who met Kim through a PTSD support group, did not see deportation as a fitting future for a military veteran.
"If you're willing to sacrifice your life potentially, if you're willing to write that blank check, payable up to and including your life to the United States of America, I feel like you've earned the right to live in the United States of America," said Meyers, according to KGW.
Sources: The Guardian, KGW / Photo credit: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Wikimedia Commons, Cpl. Robert R. Attebury via U.S. Marine Corps/Wikimedia Commons, Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander/Defense Video Imagery Distribution System