A South Korean-born U.S. Army Specialist is suing the Department of Homeland Security, alleging that the government improperly failed to process her citizenship application as part of a larger ploy by the Trump administration to renege on prior government-backed path to citizenship programs.
Yea Ji Sea, 29, who came to the U.S. with her parents when she was 9 years old, had enlisted and served in the Army for more than four years under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, a 2008 initiative that promised to put immigrants with valuable skills on a fast track to citizenship if they enrolled in the military. But despite her enrollment in the program, Sea’s citizenship application has remained in limbo for more than two years due to a fraudulent immigration form that was included in her student visa application. Sea, who obtained the paperwork through an approved language school whose owner was later convicted in a fraud case, has said that she believed the document was legitimate and has not been accused of fraud herself.
Sea, who served as a combat medic and was awarded two Army Achievement medals during her enlistment, was honorably discharged last month on the basis that her student visa application was invalid. Her dream was to become a military doctor. With her citizenship status still pending, Sea has said she’s now afraid to even leave her house due to the risk of being picked up by immigration officials and deported. She is also unable to get a job due to her status. “As a soldier, I would think that I would be protected by at least some kind of law that would say, ‘I shouldn’t have to worry about driving back home,’” Sea said. “I was really thinking it would be OK.”
Sea’s lawyer, retired U.S. Army Reserve lieutenant colonel Margaret Stock, has alleged that the unusually long delay in her client’s citizenship application is part of a larger push by the Trump administration to restrict foreign-born people from becoming U.S. citizens through service in the army. According to The Associated Press, more than 40 U.S. Army reservists and recruits who were promised paths to citizenship have faced discharge or had their status become questionable since Trump’s election. At a hearing in a U.S. District Court on Tuesday, a judge told immigration officials that they would need to stop indefinitely delaying Sea’s citizenship process, and officially resolve her application within three weeks.
“She was a victim of the crime, not somebody who got prosecuted,” noted Stock. “They’re trying to justify why they’re kicking all these immigrants out of the Army.”
Below, watch video of Sea discussing her case with The San Antonio Express.