Iraq War Veteran Seeks Release from Immigration Detention

For Immediate Release

July 14th, 2017


Tim Warden-Hertz, Directing Attorney, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
(206) 957-8652;


Tacoma, WA – On Thursday, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) filed a request for release with the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of Chong Kim, an Iraq war veteran currently being held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.


A green card holder, Mr. Kim was five-years-old when his family left South Korea and came to the United States. He grew up in Portland, Oregon and enlisted in the United States military in 2005. He then served in the National Guard for over five years before deploying to Iraq. After being honorably discharged from service, he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction. These struggles were compounded by Mr. Kim’s homelessness at the time. In 2013 he was convicted of first-degree burglary and threatened with deportation but ultimately released.


In 2016, while still struggling with drug addiction, Mr. Kim was convicted for attempted arson and possession of an explosive device after he filled an empty beer bottle with gasoline, lit it on fire, and threw it at an empty wall behind a store. As a condition of his parole, Mr. Kim entered and completed a four-and-a-half month long in-patient drug treatment program run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and began the process of turning his life around.


But his immigration problems resurfaced.


In early April, Mr. Kim was required to come to a meeting with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official. What he thought was a routine check-in turned out to be the beginnings of deportation proceedings against him. He was taken to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where he has been held for the past three months.


The deportation case, based on Mr. Kim’s old criminal record, demonstrates how the United States inadequately supports those who serve in the military.


“It’s hard to imagine a more clear example of someone being a part of the country than putting their life on the line for it,” said Tim Warden-Hertz, Mr. Kim’s lawyer and the directing attorney of NWIRP’s Tacoma office. “While Mr. Kim has taken responsibility for his mistakes, the government refuses to see him as anything other than a list of criminal convictions.”


In the request for release, NWIRP argues that Mr. Kim should be released from detention as soon as possible while the case is pending. He is not a danger to the community, as his past convictions stemmed from drug addiction for which he has successfully completed treatment. He is also not a flight risk, as demonstrated by his compliance with ICE’s request to come to their Portland office on April 5th, as well as his strong connections to the community.


Mr. Kim’s Team Leader in Iraq, Staff Sargent Ryan Henry Kell, stated, “war can change a person, but Mr. Kim gave selflessly of himself in order to protect and serve this nation. I ask you give Mr. Kim another chance to let him stay in this country that I know he loves.”


You can read our request for release at this link.