Cancel Deportation of the Lee-Choi Family

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Ms. Theresa Pauling Chief Counsel Office of the Chief Counsel Immigration and Customs Enforcement U.S. Department of Homeland Security 26 Federal Plaza, 11th Floor New York, NY 10278 Re : Petition to Cancel Deportation of the Lee-Choi Family Mrs. Yoojung CHOI LEE (A-089-179-673) – Mother Ms. Haeun LEE (A-089-179-674) - Older daughter Ms. Hayoung LEE (A-089-176-549) - Younger daughter Dear Ms. Pauling: We, the members of the Korean American Association of Greater New York ("KAAGNY"), hereby collectively petition your office to exercise prosecutorial discretion to close removal proceedings against the above-referenced family on humanitarian grounds. The history of KAAGNY dates back to 1921 when Korea was under Japanese colonial occupation, and a handful of elite Korean students who temporarily settled in New York City to pursue higher education at elite institutions such as Columbia and NYU organized a group which advocated for Korea’s independence from Japan and helped fellow Korean students to acclimate to new culture and language in the United States. Subsequently, these individuals returned to Korea and assumed key positions in government, business and academia. With the advent of open immigration policies, Korean population in the greater New York metropolitan area increased and diversified, and the current form of KAAGNY was formally established in 1960 as a non-profit, bi-partisan, organization whose main goals and missions are to: (1) serve the interests of nearly half a million Korean Americans residing in the greater New York metropolitan area by acting as their voices; (2) bridge the gap between the Korean Americans and the American mainstream society and other ethnic groups by promoting harmony and cooperation to improve the image of New York City and the quality of life of New York City residents, along with approximately 500 other Korean-American organizations and other organizations in the New York metropolitan area in various fields such as education, culture, vocational help, and community affairs; and (3) represent the common interests of the United States and Korea and improving the relations of both nations by promoting exchange of trade, culture, arts and education between the two nations. Members of KAAGNY recently have become aware of the harsh situation faced by the Lee-Choi family which consists of Mr. Bong Chang Lee, his wife, Mrs. Yoojung Choi-Lee, and their two minor daughters, Haeun Lee and Hayoung Lee, 17 and 15 years old, respectively. Although Mrs. Lee-Choi and the two minor daughters applied for adjustment of status as derivative beneficiaries on Mr. Lee's application, only Mr. Lee's application has been granted. However, Mrs. Lee-Choi and the two minor daughters have been placed in removal proceedings after the USCIS denied their applications on the ground that they are not protected under INA 245(i) because the prior I-140 petition filed on behalf of Mrs. Lee-Choi in 2000 had been denied and, therefore, the petition was not approvable when filed. We have been told by the Lee-Choi’s family’s attorneys, Bretz & Coven, LLP, which has graciously agreed to represent them pro bono in their removal proceedings that, while Mrs. Lee-Choi and the two minor daughters will renew their adjustment of status applications before the Immigration Judge, there is no guarantee that the renewed applications would be granted. We have been told by Bretz & Coven, LLP, that, should their renewed applications be denied, they will face deportation to South Korea, which will result in extremely unusual hardship upon the Lee-Choi family for the reasons discussed below. Please note that the younger daughter, Hayoung, suffers from multiple symptoms of severe physical and mental disabilities. She suffers from multiple episodes of severe seizure and is required to be constantly monitored and take multiple medications. Mrs. Lee-Choi has been her care taker since her birth. Hayoung's physician has indicated that Hayoung would be unable to board an airplane due to her medical conditions. The older daughter, Haeun, is a stellar high school student who won an essay contest sponsored by the Harvard Education Review, the leading education journal. Her essay on the topic of Dream Act would be published in the journal's summer edition and a copy of the essay will be mailed to President Obama. Mr. Lee suffers from chronic heart condition and has a heart monitoring device implanted in his heart. This device acts as the heart stimulator to ensure his heart does not stop functioning as his heart stops while in sleep. His physician has indicated that stress caused by deportation of his wife and two children would have a severe impact on his heart condition which may have devastating effect on his health and even life. Mr. and Mrs. Lee have been gainfully employed and have always paid taxes to our government when due. They have no criminal history and are persons of good moral character who lead religious and spiritual lives. Their older daughter has so much potential to contribute to our country and community. Their younger daughter needs constant care and attention due to her severe medical conditions. South Korea is still a society where discrimination against disabled persons is severe and does not have proper medical care for persons with Haeun's conditions. Should Mrs. Lee-Choi and the two minor daughters be deported, their lives would be destroyed, as Mrs. Lee-Choi would be unable to care for the two daughters alone, and Mr. Lee would be unable to care for himself alone in the United States. The effect would be the same should the entire family move to South Korea. Given the relatively long passage of time since they left Korea and the current economic situation of Korea, which is worse than that of the United States, Mr. Lee or Mrs. Lee-Choi would be unable to secure employment in Korea that would provide adequate financial means to make ends meet, let alone pay for astronomical medical costs for Haeun. The Lee family's extraordinary situation has touched the entire Korean American and other communities of New York City and across the country. Thousands of individuals have petitioned or are currently petitioning for cancellation of their deportation to South Korea. We believe that the extraordinary and compelling situation of the Lee-Choi family warrants an exercise of prosecutorial discretion to stop their deportation and allow them to remain in the United States together. Given these circumstances, we respectfully request that your office exercise prosecutorial discretion to cancel deportation of Mrs. Lee-Choi and the two minor daughters. Thank you in advance for your kind courtesy and attention to this matter. Respectfully submitted, Yong Hwa Ha, President Korean American Association of Greater New York


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