Zhao, who grew up in eastern China was thrilled when he had the opportunity to graduate from college at Texas A&M University.
After graduation, Zhao enlisted in the United States Army as part of a recruitment program that offered a path to citizenship to recruits who were immigrants in the country legally.
The future Zhao may not be exciting because he has been abruptly discharged from military service without any explanation. He has also lost the path to citizenship he had earned with his service to the country he so loves.
On Friday, Zhao told the Associated Press, “It’s just like you’re dropped from heaven to hell.” The number of military servicemen and women who have been kicked out after participating in the special recruit program remains unknown.
Immigration attorneys say they know of at least 40 who have either been discharged or whose status has come under question. Some of the recruits were given no explanation of their discharge. Others were told they were a security risk because they had family members in other countries. Others were told they had to go because the Defense Department had not run a background check on them.
Zhao, who is 31 and working towards his PhD at Texas A&M prepared himself for basic training. He had military identification and health care. He underwent vigorous vetting. He visited Washington DC. The month of his first DC visit, Zhao’s commander informed him he had been discharged. The only explanation he received was that the discharge was “uncharacterized.”
Zhao said of the discharge, “I’m not a national threat. On the contrast, I’m a national merit because people like me with higher education and critical skills, we want to serve this great U.S. Army. I’m a good scientist no matter what.”