ACLU-WA sues government on behalf of JBLM soldier denied citizenship

News Release: 
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
The ACLU of Washington is suing United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of a decorated active-duty U.S. Army service member stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for unreasonably delaying his naturalization application.

Filed on behalf of Army Specialist Do Hoon Kim, the case, Kim v. United States Department of Homeland Security, et al., charges that the government’s failure to process Specialist Kim’s naturalization application violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which requires the government to process applications “within a reasonable time.” 

“I enlisted in the Army to serve my country, and am honored to have served in active duty alongside many brave soldiers,” said Specialist Kim. “It would be an even greater honor to become a citizen of this country.” 

Specialist Kim has served for nearly four years in the Army, and has performed his service commendably. In June 2016, he was awarded the Army Achievement Medal for professionalism and exemplary service, and a Good Conduct Medal on January 11, 2018 for exemplary behavior, efficiency and fidelity in active federal military service.

“Specialist Kim has served in the United States Army with honor and integrity for years, yet the government has left him to languish,” said ACLU-WA Legal Fellow Michael Youhana. “He lives in fear of being deported for no good reason.”

Specialist Kim, who was brought to this country from South Korea by his parents in 2006 and grew up in the Los Angeles area, enlisted in the Army in 2014 under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program. The MAVNI program was established to recruit non-citizens with skills critical to the needs of the U.S. military, including medical, technical and language expertise. The government is required to expedite the processing of naturalization applications for MAVNI enlistees.

In recent months, MAVNI recruits have been abruptly discharged from the Army, sometimes with no explanation, while the naturalization applications of other MAVNI recruits have stalled. In a similar case, the ACLU of Southern California asked the government to act on the application of another soldier whose application was similarly delayed, which was approved shortly after the lawsuit was filed.

“Specialist Kim brings Korean language skills to the U.S. Army at a time when such expertise is as critical as it’s ever been,” said Staff Attorney Eunice Cho. “All of us are better off when those who serve this country are treated with fairness and respect."

“Specialist Kim is upholding this country’s values through his honorable service,” said ACLU-WA Cooperating Attorney Thomas D. Adams. “The government should do the same by keeping the promise it made to him and his family.”

ACLU-WA Staff Attorney Eunice Cho and Legal Fellow Michael Youhana, and Thomas D. Adams of Karr Tuttle Campbell, are representing Kim.
Case documents and supporting materials are available at