Local veteran detained by ICE, could be deported to South Korea

Chong Hwan Kim (Courtesy Jordan Meyers)

A local man who served in the Iraq War has been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and is being held in Tacoma, Wash.

Friends tell KATU News Chong Hwan Kim, now 41, was brought to the U.S. by his father from South Korea when he was about 5 years old. He served in the Oregon National Guard as an Infantryman for nearly 6 years, and mobilized in Iraq from 2009 to 2010. He was honorably discharged.

He remains a South Korean national, and was detained this week by ICE because of a prior conviction for attempt to commit arson in Multnomah County. It was his second felony in 3 years.

According to court documents, Kim lit a homemade Molotov cocktail behind an Ace Hardware store in Southeast Portland in February 2016.

He pleaded guilty in July and was released in August after credited for time served.

Multnomah County Parole & Probation says he was on supervised release.

A representative says Kim was reporting to his parole officer regularly and that, "he was doing everything he was supposed to do" since he was released from jail.

In April, immigration agents arrested Kim and took him to the Northwest Detention Facility in Tacoma, where he is now.

According to a representative from the Seattle Field Office, Kim will remain detained in Washington "while his immigration case undergoes review by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the Department of Justice agency which administers the nation’s immigration courts."

Fellow veteran Jordan Meyers says he is upset with federal agents for Kim's detention after he served to protect the freedoms and values of our country.

"I would hope that anyone honorably served our country is welcome in our country," Meyers said. "He was overseas; he definitely put himself in harm's way. He definitely took his service to our country to the next level."

Meyers points out that Kim's more serious criminal history did not begin until after his military service ended. He says Kim was employed and receiving treatment.

"It's absolutely ridiculous; I don't understand it," Meyers told KATU. "So, me and a decent-sized group of veterans are really trying to figure out how to best help him. We don't leave anyone behind."

Service members have an option to become U.S. citizens if they serve. It's not forced, required or automatic, officials said.

Kim holds a valid Green Card, also known as the Permanent Resident Card.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with Chong Hwan Kim's legal services.

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