Buena Park churchgoers rallied Monday around one of their community members who is facing deportation.
Justin Chung is a formerly incarcerated Korean immigrant who came to the U.S. at the age of 2. He is now at risk of being deported to South Korea, a country he says he does not know.
Chung, now 32, served 14 years in prison for murder and attempted murder, crimes he committed as a teenager.
“When I was 16 years old, I was involved with the wrong crowd and I was involved in a gang-related shooting,“ Chung said. “Unfortunately, somebody did die. That’s something I live with for the rest of my life. But I am not the same person.“
Chung’s initial sentence of 82 years to life in prison was commuted and he was released about two years ago. He was then taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and now faces possible deportation.
Chung and his supporters are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to pardon him. They’ve collected thousands of petition signatures are fighting to keep him in the only he country he knows.
One of Chung’s supporters is Irvine City Council member Tammy Kim, who also works with Korean Community Services.
“He was released. He paid his debt to society,” the councilmember said. “I don’t see why someone like him, who has done nothing but good service after being rehabilitated, should be deported to a country he does not know.”
Pastor Suk Kim of the Onesimus Ministry says Chung is now working to help youth stay away from gangs.
“Through Bible college and the ministry, he gave a good spiritual influence to many inmates in prison,” the pastor said.
Chung says this is his home.
“If I was born in America, I wouldn’t be facing deportation,” Chung said. “But because I was born in a different country, I’m facing essentially a double punishment.”
Chung and his supporters are planning another rally before his next ICE hearing next month.