The U.S. soldier was ready to deploy across the world at a moment’s notice, but when the orders came down weeks ago to mobilize on the southern border, it sparked a flash of concern.

He knew the mission was in support of border agents combing harsh borderland terrain to arrest anyone unlawfully in the country.

People like him.

“I’m an illegal immigrant,” the Chinese-born soldier told The Washington Post by phone.

His duties do not often intersect with Customs and Border Protection agents, he said, but he has avoided them out of fear they will learn that one of 5,400 troops in their orbit is in violation of immigration law.

That has placed him in the unusual situation of serving a nation that has not recognized him as a citizen, despite promises from the Pentagon to quickly naturalize skilled immigrants in exchange for service, as they had done for thousands of troops since 2009.

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Washington Post: He’s a U.S. soldier deployed on the southern border — and an unlawful immigrant