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Don't deport Kang brothers

LAST UPDATED: 12:01 a.m. HST, Oct 15, 2010

One of the most heated immigration controversies revolves around recognizing United States citizenship of children born in the U.S. of illegal aliens. For the children of legal immigrants, granting citizenship should not be an issue. But unusual circumstances could result in two such children being deported in defiance of humanitarian values and common sense. If ever an exception to the letter of immigration law is warranted, it's in the case of the Kang family of Honolulu.

The problem arises from the delay, by more than a decade, of the approval of legal residency in 2008 of South Korea natives Duck and Ok Ran Kang. By that time, both of their sons -- Hee Chung Kang and Hyo Chun Kang -- had reached the age of 21 and thus had "aged out" as children eligible to join their parents in citizenship, according to immigration laws.

To make matters worse, should the brothers be deported, "there is no one in Korea to take care of them," their mother, Ok Ran Kang, told the Star-Advertiser's Michael Tsai. The older brother, Hee Chung Kang, has Down syndrome, with a mental capacity that is not likely to exceed his present level of 11 years; he is enrolled in vocational training. The younger brother is enrolled in community college.

In a 2001 memorandum, Immigration and Customs Enforcement field directors were advised to allow "aged out" beneficiaries to remain in that status while filing for permanent status. The two Kang brothers filed for that adjustment early last year, but their applications were rejected 10 months later, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun hearings aimed at deporting them to South Korea.

The memo advises the field directors that applications for citizenship "often" are approved for immigration applicants after their children have reached 21. The fact that the Kangs arrived in the U.S. on a temporary visitor visa and remained after the expiration date shouldn't be an issue; they eventually obtained citizenship.

Warren Kim, the family's attorney, is asking ICE to defer the two sons' prosecution and deportation "based upon humanitarian reasons and other mitigating circumstances." Homeland Security has been reviewing deportation cases and pulling back those lacking serious criminal records. Kim points out that the brothers "are not criminals or terrorists."

Nor can they be compared with illegal aliens who have crossed the boundary from Mexico for the purpose of giving birth, and thus U.S. citizenship, to their children, however much that occurrence has been exaggerated by opponents of immigration reform.

The Kang brothers were 10 and 7 years old when they arrived in Hawaii and were 14 and 11 when the Kangs sought to legalize the entire family's presence in America. If the application had been approved in a timely way, the current predicament would not have occurred. The government should not punish the family in defiance of humanitarian principles and because of bureaucratic delay.

CORRECTION: Duck and Ok Ran Kang are legal U.S. residents. An Oct. 5 editorial on Page A11 stated that they are U.S. citizens.

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