Yea Ji, Wrongly Denied Citizenship

Photo of Yea Ji

Yea Ji was brought to this country from South Korea by her parents in 1998 and grew up in the Los Angeles area. She enlisted in the Army in 2013 under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which allows recruitment of noncitizens who have skills critical to the needs of the U.S. military, including physicians, nurses and experts in certain foreign languages. Yea Ji is fluent in Korean and a healthcare specialist.

She earned two Army Achievement Medals "for exceptionally meritorious service.” While stationed in South Korea, she served as an ambulance aid driver and was the only pharmacy technician for the entire Camp Casey Combined Troop Station that served more than 1,800 soldiers. In her off hours, she served as a translator for doctors and helped care for injured soldiers.

The MAVNI program required inductees to apply for U.S. citizenship upon entering the military. She applied, but unbeknownst to her, the owner of the school through which she had previously received a student visa had been working with a corrupt immigration agent to create false forms for visa applications. (The school owner was later convicted and sent to prison).

During Yea Ji’s interview about her citizenship application, she nervously stated that a date on a false form drawn up for her by the immigration agent was accurate though it was not. Because of this mistake, her initial citizenship application was denied. But she was permitted to reapply after demonstrating, for at least one year, "good moral character."

Yea did just that, but waited in limbo for two years–leaving her vulnerable to deportation by the country she served honorably. Following an ACLU lawsuit, her citizenship application was approved.

Read more about Yea Ji’s story:

ACLU of Southern California

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