For 24 years, she built her life in a community that wants to see her stay on but she has exhausted all avenues of remaining in the US and face deportation back to Malaysia.
Since leaving her Malaysian village as a teenager, Dr Guan Choo Lee has relied on wits and a survivalist instinct to build a life in the US, Rochester daily Post-Bulletin reported.
Lee is a Malaysian citizen who entered the US legally in 1992. After earning her medical degree, Lee started and built a medical practice in Rochester. She has lived in the US for 24 years, but next week, the US government could deport her back to Malaysia.
After entering the US in 1992, she overstayed her lawful visit by several years. In the years since, she has pursued several avenues of relief, but ultimately exhausted each.
She was granted voluntary departure by a federal immigration judge in 2011, but failed to leave, automatically changing that grant to a final order of removal (deportation order).
Since then, in an act of discretion, the Customs Enforcement Office (ICE) has granted her several stays of removal and has not placed her in custody.
However, if she fails to comply with the removal order to leave the US this time, she will be listed as an ICE fugitive, subject to arrest and removal, in accordance with US law.
On Monday, she will report to a federal building at Fort Snelling, as she has for some time now. It’s unclear what will happen next.
An ICE agent could then handcuff and shackle her before deporting her back to Malaysia.
Her many advocates see the possibility of such an outcome as a grave injustice for a woman who has not only made a life for herself in Rochester but helped save lives.
Lee is a physician of naturopathic medicine, an approach that uses methods and substances that stimulate the body’s self-healing abilities.
Vicki Blazing, a Rochester resident, credits Lee’s intervention in bringing about a cancer cure for her mother.
A petition started by Blazing and signed by about 800 people as of Tuesday urges the government to not deport Lee.
“She has helped so many individuals as a doctor,” Blazing said. “She just has complete passion to help anybody, whether they have the means or not. I think that’s really important that we need that.”
Lee’s lawyer, Ketelsen-Renner, describes his client’s predicament as the product of bureaucratic bungling and poor advice. Her supporters echo the same sentiments, citing miscommunication, misunderstanding, a confusing and inept bureaucracy, and Lee’s lack of experience in negotiating such confusing terrain as the causes of her plight.
Since 2009, she has essentially lived in legal limbo, building a life and practice even as the threat of deportation has hung over her.
Lee was seemingly a step removed from becoming a US citizen in 2009. She had undergone a background check, and passed her English and civics exams. All she needed to do was take the oath of allegiance, and she was home free.
Instead, she received a letter from immigration authorities denying her application for citizenship – and a notice that deportation proceedings would begin against her.
Lee is a Christian who attends the Autumn Ridge Church. Her senior pastor has written several testimonials on her behalf, urging authorities to grant her green card status.
Lee said that whatever happens, she puts her faith in God.
“I just have faith that everything will be OK.
“I put all these hopes in the Lord that something good will come, no matter what.
“I want to tell the whole United States that I’m really grateful. All these years, even though I’m going through a lot, but I’m still here. I just want to give back,” Lee was quoted as saying.