VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — The future is uncertain for an Iraq war veteran who was recently taken into ICE custody, despite growing up in the Portland area.
Chong Hwan Kim, 42, was born in South Korea. His father said their family had green cards when they legally immigrated to the United States more than 35 years ago.
KOIN 6 News confirmed Kim was a member of the National Guard for more than 5 years and served as an E4 Army specialist as a rifleman in Iraq.
He received a general discharge under honorable conditions.
But he also has a criminal record, which complicates his legal status.
Navy veteran Jordan Meyers reached out to KOIN 6 News after learning that Kim, his friend, had been detained by ICE and was being held in their Tacoma facility. Meyers said he and Kim belong to a support group for disabled veterans with PTSD.
“He’s a positive member of my life,” Meyers said. “I wouldn’t be where I am now without him.”
Records show Kim has been arrested on several charges, including a mixture of felonies and misdemeanors, over the last 5 years. In 2016, he was convicted of attempted arson and possession of a destructive device.
Meyers said he knows about Kim’s criminal record, but said his friend has been working to clean up his act for some time now.
“We don’t leave anyone behind,” Meyers said. “Chong put his life on the line, he put himself in danger to sacrifice for our country. Regardless of maybe having a few issues here and there, we can stand behind him and help him in his recovery.”
Kim’s father said a judge told his son, if he kept getting into trouble with the law, his immigration status could be in jeopardy. Now his family is worried about what could happen if gets deported back to South Korea where he is unfamiliar with the language, the country and its people.
“I’m just absolutely shocked that somebody who served our country honorably… [that] there would be any question as to whether they’re welcome [here],” Meyers said.
Officials with ICE’s Tacoma branch wouldn’t tell KOIN 6 News if or when Kim will be deported. His family says they can’t afford to hire their own immigration lawyer.