Beloit College Magazine

Beloit College Magazine

Spring 2018 (May 16, 2018)

Alumnus Swept Up In Homeland Security Snare


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May 15, 2018

[Sp18] Xilong “Tony” Zhu’13

In April, the Washington Post exposed the difficult and surreal journey of Xilong “Tony” Zhu’13, as he has tried to become a U.S. citizen. Beloit faculty members remember Zhu, a Chinese alumnus, as a bright and personable student.   

The Post story recounts how Zhu enlisted in the U.S. Army through a legitimate program that expedites citizenship for recruits with certain language and medical skills. (Zhu is a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese.) To fill the gap before he could start, he applied to the University of Northern New Jersey, a place where an education consultant told him he could earn college credit for practical experience he gained on the job at Apple. The program would allow him to stay within the law and work legally until he started basic training. He enrolled, paid tuition, and was able to get a Wisconsin driver’s license based on the school’s credential.

But the university was phony. The Department of Homeland Security had set it up as a sting operation to snare brokers of fraudulent student visas. After he completed basic training and received an honorable discharge from the Army, Zhu was handcuffed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and taken to a detention center in Georgia. The army leadership on his base fought to keep him, but he was processed by ICE in November of 2016—on Veterans Day—then held for 21 days. He is now free, but awaiting a judge’s ruling on his deportation case, scheduled for August.

Zhu came to the United States in 2009 from Chongqing, China, to study at Beloit. Faculty members say he established himself as a fine student who majored in political science and minored in Asian studies.

Georgia Duerst-Lahti, who recently retired from teaching political science, worked closely with Zhu and keeps in touch with him. She describes him as a tech-savvy student who challenged himself with projects outside his comfort zone. “Most of all, Tony is truly lovable,” says Duerst-Lahti. “He’s kind, with a corny sense of humor, and proper to a fault in addressing us.”

Rob LaFleur, a professor of history and anthropology, sponsored Zhu for an honors term in which the two researched an 11th-century Chinese historical text. “He was not only a skilled student, but also a wonderful person,” LaFleur says. “This country should be proud to call him a citizen, and I am appalled by the miscarriage of justice that he has endured.”

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