A decorated solider was discharged from the Army last month because of her immigration status, reportedly leaving her vulnerable for deportation.
Army Spec. Yea Ji Sea, a medic at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, was honorably discharged after more than 4 1/2 years in the military, according to The Washington Post.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has now filed a lawsuit on her behalf against the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, alleging they improperly failed to process her naturalization application.
“My biggest fear right now is my commander calling [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement],” Sea said as she prepared to leave the base. “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 pick me up.”
Sea, 29, came to the U.S. in 1998, when she was 9, the Post reported.
She joined the Army in 2013 with the goal of earning her citizenship through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program.
“I figured I’d join, work for it, get my citizenship and have a chance at a normal life,” Sea said.
The health-care specialist served in Oklahoma and Texas before working overseas as an ambulance aid driver and pharmacy tech in South Korea.
In a character assessment, her supervisor said Sea's “drive and professionalism” was the future of the Army.
“She represents the best that the Army has to offer: a smart, agile young leader capable of handling immense challenges with marked success,” the supervisor wrote.
Sea told the Post that she was stunned when she learned that her F-1 student visa, which had been allowing her to stay in the country, was fraudulent.
She had obtained the documentation in 2008 at the Neo-America Language School, according to the newspaper.
Sea did not know that the school’s owner had been working with a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent to issue fraudulent visas in exchange for bribes.
The Post reported that the officer pleaded guilty in 2013 and was sentenced to six months in prison.
“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.”
Because of the inaccuracy on her naturalization application, Sea was deemed by the U.S. government as a person who is not of “good moral character," according to the Post.
“They knew about the student visa at least since 2014, and she’s been honorably serving the military since then,” Ahmed told the Post. “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.”
More than 40 MAVNI participants have recently been discharged or had their status put on hold in recent months, The Associated Press reported last month
Ahmed said the sudden discharge is because of President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE’s hard-line stance on immigration.
“They’re trying to discharge her now, and it’s part of a larger anti-immigration scheme of the Trump administration,” Ahmed said.