Hmong Veteran stranded in Visalia
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A war hero's hard road home is finally opening up. An elderly Visalia man from Laos wants his life to end in his homeland, but the U.S. government hasn't made it easy.
His face is obscured and so is his future.
The Visalia man named in court documents as John Doe Xiong is fighting, as he has for many of his 88 years.
First, he fought to save American lives in Vietnam. Now, he's fighting to end his own life outside of the United States.
"Here you have someone who risked his life on behalf of the United States and saved American pilots during the Vietnam War and is really a hero to the United States," said immigration attorney Kenneth Seeger. "This is just no way to treat a hero."
After years on the run from the Laotian government, Xiong moved in with a sister in the South Valley.
But when he applied for asylum two years ago, immigration officers seized his passport, saying they needed to verify it was real.
When Xiong started feeling sick this year, he started thinking about home again, and the wife and family he left behind.
He's scared of what the Laotian government might do to him, that's why we've obscured his face, but he believes dying in the U.S. could be a worse fate.
"You know, he thinks he's going to die soon and you probably know that in the Hmong community there's a lot of tradition related to death," said Seeger. "He feels really just afraid of what'll happen to his soul if he dies here."
But without his passport, he couldn't leave the country.
Seeger filed a lawsuit on his behalf last week. And after Action News called two immigration agencies connected to the lawsuit on Tuesday, they offered to return his passport on Wednesday.
Xiong originally agreed to do an interview, but decided against it when the immigration officers offered to return his passport.
His attorney was worried he might upset the government officials and they might change their minds.
But Xiong is excited and looking forward to the long trip home, and a chance to die in obscurity.
visalia, local, corin hoggard
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