"I'm not in good health now," he said through a translator. "My wife and children are still back in Laos. I want to go back and see them before anything happens and I die."
But he says immigration officials have refused to return his Laotian passport, which they seized when he applied for asylum.
He filed the suit on May 10 using just his last name, Xiong, to hide from Laotian authorities, who imprisoned him for working with American troops during the Vietnam War.
Xiong's attorney says an immigration judge is not scheduled to hear his case until next year, which may be too late for his ailing client.
A U.S. immigration spokeswoman said she would not comment on a pending case.