At an interview today with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the government agreed to expedite the naturalization of a decorated active-duty U.S. Army service member stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. This comes just 25 days after the ACLU of Washington filed a lawsuit on behalf of Army Specialist Do Hoon Kim for failing to process his application for over 500 days. Long delays like this, which are growing increasingly more common under the Trump Administration, are in violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which requires the government to process applications “within a reasonable time.”
“I am so happy and honored to become a citizen of the United States. This means so much to me and my family,” said SPC Kim. “I look forward to serving next my unit and my country as a citizen, wherever we are needed around the world.”
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.
Under the Trump Administration, MAVNI recruits have not only been experiencing excessive delays in the processing of their naturalization applications, but a number have also been abruptly discharged from the Army, sometimes with no explanation. In a similar case, the ACLU of Southern California asked the government to act on the application of another soldier whose application was unduly delayed. The government approved that application shortly after the lawsuit was filed.
“Specialist Kim has suffered through uncertainty about his immigration status while serving our country with honor and integrity for nearly four years,” said ACLU-WA Legal Fellow Michael Youhana. “We are pleased that he will be able to continue his life in and service to the U.S. without additional burdens imposed by the government delaying his naturalization application.”
“Through the MAVNI recruitment program the government makes a promise to soldiers like Specialist Kim who are willing share their critically important skills with the military,” said ACLU-WA Staff Attorney Eunice Cho. “It should not require the filing of a lawsuit for the government to keep its promise.”
“Specialist Kim wanted no more than to protect and enjoy the rights and freedoms that come with living in the United States,” said ACLU-WA Cooperating Attorney Thomas D. Adams. “We are happy that he will be able to continue serving his country as a U.S. citizen.”
Specialist Kim will be naturalized at 3 p.m. today at the USCIS office at 12500 Tukwila International Blvd., Tukwila, WA.
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 https://www.aclu-wa.org/cases/kim-v-united-states-department-homeland-security-et-al