Deported father seeks return to care for son


His son Dominic, a student at the University of Houston, was returning home when two young men robbed him of his wallet and car keys, shot him in the throat and left him for dead in the parking lot.

Dominic survived, barely, but was left paralyzed from the chest down and unable to care for himself.

His parents rushed to his side. They sold their condominium in Seoul and their cars and dipped deeply into their savings to pay for Dominic's enormous medical bills. For nearly four years, they have crisscrossed the Pacific Ocean every six months to keep their tourist visas valid so they can provide the round-the-clock care their son requires.

But on Feb. 15, returning from a brief trip to Seoul to renew his visa, Inhee Park was stopped by a Customs and Border Protection agent at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, accused of working illegally in the U.S. and of trying to surreptitiously settle his family here.

He was deported back to Korea on the next flight and has not yet been able to obtain a new visa.

Inhee Park, a former executive in a Seoul printing company, was Dominic's heavy lifter. He wrestled his son's 6-foot, 200-pound body in and out of bed. He picked him up and settled him in his wheelchair, loaded him in the car to take him to his appointments with his doctors, helped him with the bodily functions a 28-year-old man should be able to perform on his own.

A spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection said the agency would not comment on specific cases, and pointed to several reasons a person can be denied entry into the U.S. -- including working illegally in the U.S. and suspicion a person is intending to live permanently in the country.

Dominic Park said the agent at the airport wrongly accused his father of both.

"They said to him `Why is your family staying in the U.S.?'?" Dominic said. "He said `I had to care for my son, so I stopped my work.' They said `I have proof you are lying. You are not here to care for your son, you are here to work.'?"

Dominic said the agent got a Korean interpreter on the phone to help communicate with his father, who doesn't speak English. His father was then told to sign a form, but it was in English and the interpreter couldn't see it. The agent said if he didn't sign the form, he wouldn't be allowed to come back to the U.S. for five years, Park said. His father signed the form.

Dominic Park had dreams of getting a degree in advertising or marketing from UH and returning to Seoul to be with his family and get a job. He was enrolled in English classes and working as a lifeguard at UH's Recreation and Wellness Center when he was shot.

He was hospitalized for a month, with a poor prognosis -- doctors didn't think he would be able to talk and believed he was likely paralyzed from the neck down. But after five weeks of therapy at TIRR-Memorial Hermann, he was talking and able to move his arms.

Because he is the victim of a violent, unsolved crime, Park obtained a special visa -- known as a U Visa -- that allows him to stay in the U.S. and for him to obtain a Harris County Gold Card that provides some medical insurance.

A year ago, he was forced to abandon his physical therapy because of severe spasms that required surgery to correct. He had the surgery in January and is much improved, but now with his father not here to help him, he cannot continue his therapy, he said.

"I need to start therapy again," he said. "My mother can't help me get into the wheelchair. My brother can sometimes help, but he is at school. My father was the only person who can help me turn in bed and get into the wheelchair."

Dominic's mother, Namhee Oh, says the shooting of her son was devastating to her family, a blow that was somewhat lessened by the fact they were all together.

"This horrible accident to my son was hard enough," she said. "But now there is no guarantee that my husband is coming back. We were able to come this far because the family was together to support each other. Now my husband is not here to help us."

The two young men who shot Dominic Park have not been caught. He believes they were acting on the orders of someone else. He feels no animosity toward them.

"I think about them," he said. "But I don't hate them because they were little kids. I hope that when they shot me they got scared and didn't do it anymore. But I'm worried that they continued."

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