In February, Defense Secretary, James Mattis announced a directive that immigrant, non-citizen veterans of the U.S. military would not be at risk for deportation, and given the ability to become naturalized citizens. In recent events, it appears as if Immigration and Customs Enforcement has ignored this order, and began the deportation proceedings for Chinese native, Xilong Zhu, who served in the army for seven months before being honorably discharged, detained for three weeks, and eventually released.
Zhu’s situation is especially complex due to the nature of his enlistment into the military. When he came to the United States in 2009, Zhu came under a student visa. He attended school at Beloit College in Wisconsin, and graduated in 2013, at which time he enrolled in the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which works with immigrants to fast-track citizenship in return for language or medical skills. However, the program was placed on temporary hold in 2013, leaving Zhu without an option but to enroll in an education program to keep his visa. He enrolled at University of Northern New Jersey, which turned out to be a sting operation by the Department of Homeland Security, looking for immigrants with faulty visas. Zhu’s lawyer, Margaret Stock, has called this operation “federal entrapment”.
ICE is not regarding Zhu’s status as a veteran as a reason to hold deportation, because they say that Mattis’s policy does not protect Zhu. ICE considers Mattis’s policy as just covering veterans brought to the U.S. as children, DACA recipients, which Stock firmly protests.
VERDICT: Though this situation is a complicated one, it seems as if ICE has directly disobeyed Mattis’s directive, and taken a very conservative definition of which veterans he was looking to protect. Mattis must make his position clearer on this matter. A class-action lawsuit has also arisen due DHS’s false university, and the entrapment that followed for many immigrants. It will be interesting to see how the dispute is settled.