Xilong “Tony” Zhu’13 is continuing his fight to become a U.S. citizen after he inadvertently stepped into a trap set by Homeland Security to catch brokers of fraudulent student visas.
After graduating from Beloit, Zhu had enlisted in the U.S. Army through a legitimate program expediting citizenship for recruits with certain language and medical skills. He is originally from China and is a native speaker of Mandarin. Zhu had also enrolled at the University of Northern New Jersey, which gave him a student visa to fill the gap between the time when his current visa was set to expire and his basic training began. He was told he could accrue credit for practical experience he was getting through his job at Apple, while awaiting his official start with the army. Political Science Professor John Rapp, one of Zhu’s Beloit mentors, points out that the college program seemed a natural choice for Zhu, who had just come from Beloit, where experiential learning is more than an expectation—it’s a graduation requirement.
But the university turned out to be a setup. After completing basic training, and despite efforts by the U.S. Army to keep him, Zhu was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2016 and held for 21 days. Since he’s obtained his freedom, he’s been trying to avoid deportation and continues to seek naturalization with legal assistance.
Last August, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied his naturalization application, but Zhu’s lawyer is working on an appeal and remains confident about his case. The immigration judge on his case has scheduled a hearing for Zhu in October 2019 on his potential deportation.
Last April, Zhu’s situation was part of a Washington Post story that investigated whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were following Defense Secretary James Mattis’ directive to refrain from deporting noncitizen troops and veterans.