A U.S. Army veteran who was nearly deported to South Korea has finally won her American citizenship.
The process for Yea Ji Sea took years.
Sea served as an Army specialist for more than four years after enlisting under a special program called MAVNI that allows a pathway to citizenship for immigrant soldiers.
She was honorably discharged in July because the U.S. Department of Defense claimed her student visa was not valid when she enlisted, according to her attorney Sameer Ahmed.
The government denied her first citizen application in 2015 because of an incident nearly a decade earlier.
“In 2008, she obtained a student visa,” Ahmed said. “In her student visa application, unbeknownst to her, there was a corrupt Border Patrol agent who was creating fake documents.”
One of those fake documents ended up in Sea’s application and she was given a year to reapply.
Her second application stayed in legal limbo for two years.
The ACLU argued it was a pattern under the Trump administration and demanded the court make a decision.
Earlier this month, the court finally acted, granting her the citizenship she had hoped for so much of her life.
“I can’t believe it,” she said.
She was sworn in as a citizen last week.
The first thing she did? Register to vote.
Next she hopes to enlist in the Navy and go to medical school.
She also is urging attorneys across the nation to help others who are caught up in a similar situation.
“I know the MAVNI soldiers are all through the states. If I could humbly ask lawyers out there to help these soldiers win this fight. Ultimately they’re just trying to protect their country, right?”