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Local DJ Battles Bureaucracy For His Citizenship

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(credit: CBS) Holly Wagner
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A popular disk jockey in the Twin Cities fears he’ll lose one of the things he cherishes most in life – his American citizenship.

“I can’t think of anything more American than fighting to be an American,” Thisaphone Sothiphakhak said. “It really hurts you when the country you love has denied you, like a stake to the heart.”

The 36-year-old is known in the music community for his skill as DJ. But it was his full-time job at Wells Fargo where his employers discovered something was up during a background check.

“Something went wrong, I don’t know why,” he said. “It’s my name or something.”

He says his name was flagged by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Sothiphakhak discovered his father, who passed away when he was a young boy, never completed the process of making him a U.S. citizen.

His family fled to the United States from a refugee camp in Thailand when he was just 2-years-old.

Sothiphakhak started the process on his own, but it’s been a downward spiral ever since.

“Well I can’t get a job. That’s difficult. I got fired because of it,” he said.

That was three years ago, and he hasn’t been able to get a steady job since.

Sothiphakhak is barely scraping by; he sold his car, his bike, is eating one meal a day and living off his hobby — spinning music once a month at a nightclub.

“I can work. It shouldn’t be I’m living like this,” he said. “I am an able bodied citizen to work.”

He fears if things don’t change he’ll be on the streets.

Sothiphakhak has contacted the government, lawyers, state politicians and his status remains in limbo.

“I don’t blame anything but the bureaucratic system,” he said. “I know it’s unintentional. I’m an unintentional casualty of paperwork.”

Sothiphakhak believes one thing that might be holding up the process is two misdemeanors he’s had in the last 15 years.

The office of Sen. Amy Klobuchar said it’s working on his case and the government is reviewing his application.

Sothiphakhak says if he was deported he doesn’t know where he would go, because Thailand would have no record of him either. He was just a baby when his family left the refugee camp.

His friends are planning a benefit for him to help with living expenses in the meantime.

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