Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Seeks the Release of Iraq War Veteran Being Held in Immigration Detention without Cause

For Immediate Release

December 14th, 2017

Contact:

Tim Warden-Hertz, Directing Attorney, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
(206) 957-8652; tim@nwirp.org


 

Tacoma, WA  – Yesterday, 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 who has been held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma for over eight months. In the request for Mr. Kim’s release, NWIRP argues that there is no reason for him to continue being detained as the conviction which placed him in deportation proceedings was vacated because of constitutional deficiencies on December 1st.

 

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.

 

In 2016, 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.
 
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 eight months.
 
However, on December 1st, Mr. Kim’s arson conviction was set aside by Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Eric Bergstrom after his Oregon-based attorney, John Haub, filed a Motion to Set Aside Guilty Pleas on Mr. Kim’s behalf. The basis of this motion was that Mr. Kim was not informed by his counsel at the time that his pleas would result in mandatory deportation, in violation of the constitution.
 
After Judge Bergstrom’s decision, Mr. Kim pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor crimes and was sentenced to 24 months probation and 100 hours of community service.  Though Mr. Kim served 187 days in jail on previous convictions, he agreed to waive any credit for that jail time in the event he fails his probation.

 

Mr. Kim intends to return to Portland where he will live with his father, rejoin Veteran’s Court, and seek employment at the VA. Yet nearly two weeks later, Mr. Kim remains in immigration detention.

 
Speaking about the case, NWIRP attorney Tim Warden-Hertz said, “I have no idea why Immigration and Customs Enforcement would continue to detain Mr. Kim since he cannot be deported. He should be immediately released with his green card to return back to his family, community, and support in Portland.”

 

Speaking about the case, Mr. Kim’s Oregon based attorney John Haub said, “had Mr.Kim known he was pleading guilty to charges which would certainly lead to his deportation, he would not have done so. His motion to set aside the pleas was granted in recognition of his failure to understand the consequences of his guilty pleas. Mr. Kim is thankful that the Multnomah County District Attorney supported his return to Veteran’s Court, after confirming that the victim hardware store and Portland Fire Department supported the new charges and continued probation with drug and alcohol counselling. Fair-minded prosecutors are the key to effective justice.”

 

You can read our request for release at this link.
You can read our request to join motion to reopen and terminate removal proceedings at this link.