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Arrested UCSB Student Returns

Campus Administrators, State Department Officials Agree to Talk

Yoon Choi, the UCSB student taken in by immigration agents on 5/23, returned to campus this week after posting a bond allowing her to leave the detention facility at which she was being held.

Neither Choi nor her attorney, Leon Hazany, could be reached for comment.

Virginia Kice, local spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)- the largest branch in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – said Choi’s “hearing is ongoing” and that the bond “will allow her to remain in the U.S., pending a decision by a U.S. judge.” Choi, a third-year sociology and philosophy major, is in the midst of an ICE investigation and allegedly has been in the country for six years with an expired visitor’s visa. She faces deportation, but can appeal such a decision through the court system, Kice said.

Just as Choi’s fate remains up the air, so too does the direction of future investigations into international students’ records. The day after it occurred, a few faculty members and students at UCSB decried Choi’s arrest, saying ICE agents were not following proper procedure and did not have sufficient reason to go into the woman’s apartment, located in the UCSB-owned Santa Ynez apartment complex on El Colegio Road in Isla Vista.

Accompanied by campus police officers, ICE agents entered Choi’s apartment on 5/23 at 5 a.m. to interrogate her roommate – an international Iranian graduate student – about her immigration status. Officials at UCSB had apparently incorrectly entered information about the grad student into her Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) account, prompting an investigation. SEVIS is the State Department’s computer tracking program for international students studying in the U.S.

The grad student produced her documentation without incident, leaving agents to turn to Choi – the woman’s roommate – who was unable to provide sufficient documentation. She was arrested at the scene.

Some campus officials claimed that ICE should have contacted the campus administration – and not just the campus police – beforehand, as doing so would have cleared up the inaccuracies in the grad student’s profile without the early morning visit.

UCSB spokesman Paul Desruisseaux said a campus official would soon be contacting the State Department to determine what UCSB should expect in the future. “We’re not looking for an apology so much as a clarification of what the procedure is. This happened in a way that was so contrary to our understanding of what procedures are.”

Kice said her department would welcome such inquiries and would be willing to work with UCSB administrators on finding a better enforcement method for SEVIS. “This system won’t work unless we work together: This is a learning process,” she said. David Wales, Assistant Special Agent in charge of Ventura’s ICE office, will soon contact the university, she said.

As for Choi’s current student status, Desruisseaux said neither he nor any other campus official could comment due to federal regulations protecting students’ academic records. He did explain that while UCSB asks applicants to list their current citizenship or immigration status, there is no mechanism in place to determine the accuracy of the claims. Along with academic history, the campus only checks California residency status. California Assembly Bill 540 allows students, regardless of citizenship status, to pay the instate tuition rate, so long as they attended a California high school for three years.

“We ask them about that when they apply and we expect them to respond in a truthful way,” Desruisseaux said of students’ citizenship or immigration status.

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