‘Know Your Rights’ urged after first Pinoy deported under Trump
FOLLOWING the deportation of Rey Galleon, Filipino-American community organizations like the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) in Los Angeles are urging undocumented Filipinos to know their rights in the event they are approached by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Galleon, an undocumented Filipino who had been living in San Bernardino, California for several years, was taken by ICE agents after dropping his daughter off at school on Friday, March 17. He reportedly did not have a criminal record.
PWC said Galleon’s case was the first one it received regarding an undocumented Filipino being deported since President Donald Trump took office in January.
According to Galleon, ICE manipulated and coerced him into signing a document, which was actually a ‘voluntary departure form.’ He was able to persuade the officers to allow him to go back to his home to get clothes, which presented him the opportunity to tell his wife to escape before the officers could reach them as well.
He then paid for a plane ticket himself and returned to the Philippines.
“He was a simple father trying to raise his family in the U.S and not trying to get attention,” said Lolita Lledo, associate director of PWC, whom Galleon contacted through Facebook messenger not long after he arrived in the Philippines. Galleon, who was a member of PWC until he moved from Los Angeles to San Bernardino, told Lledo he was unaware of how ICE found out his exact address.
He was later joined by his wife and their two U.S.-born children a week later.
Galleon’s story serves as an example of what the next four years may bring under the current administration.
However, his story is also a lesson that other Filipinos can learn from. In response to this, a “Know Your Rights” training and workshop — hosted by the Association of Filipino Workers and ICE Out of LA Coalition — was held at PWC on Saturday, April 1.
At the event, Emi MacLean, who is an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), discussed types of deportations and precautionary measures undocumented residents can take. She emphasized that ICE can raid communities, homes, jails, and workplaces; but cannot raid schools, hospitals, or places of worship.
Vanessa Deleon from the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) also explained that undocumented workers who may have suggestive tattoos could get them a gang injunction or be placed on a database of suspected gang members, increasing their chances of deportation. Those with misdemeanors can qualify to have their charges expunged through YJC, she added.
Although Trump has said in the past that his primary focus is to deport those with criminal records, speakers on Saturday argued that Galleon’s story proves otherwise and that the basis for deportation has become broader.
“The Trump era brought a faster deportation process, a more regular use of immigration jails, and more raids in homes and work, and encouraged a better collaboration between the police department and ICE,” said MacLean.
She also explained that even those with a green card are not entirely exempt so it is important to attend a legal clinics or workshops to be well-informed of one’s rights
“I am not saying this to scare you. I am saying this because it shows we need to support one another, educate ourselves on our rights, and fight back,” she emphasized.
Lledo also spoke out about Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s stance that he would not ‘lift a single finger’ to help the undocumented Filipinos in the U.S.
“And we want to remind you, President Duterte, that most of these undocumented are your supporters. They send you money during the election. [They] are still Filipino citizens,” Lledo said, adding, “You cannot ignore them. Even if they are far away, suffering, they have been helping [their] country. Why would [Duterte] not open the Philippines consulate to help us to provide legal service? They could organize immigration Filipino lawyers and send a lawyer to someone like [Rey].”
She went on to say that instead of “trying to cower in fear every time you read the news about an arrest,” undocumented Filipinos should attend legal clinics or seek advice from a lawyer about their cases.
Although she is single and has never had children, Alice (last name withheld), 52, said she still has so much family to help. Alice graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in pharmacy, but is working in the U.S. as a caregiver.
“I am here to provide for my nieces and nephew. I am the one sending them to school. My niece and nephew are graduating college this March,” she said.
She added that undocumented individuals need support groups because “in times like this PWC, gives information of what to do and what not to do during this hard time. And if in case, whatever happens, PWC has a support system that can help the person. It’s not guaranteed, of course, that a person will always get what they want but at least the person knows there is someone that will help throughout any case.”
For other participants, the workshop proved beneficial as it equipped them with the proper resources in case they encounter immigration officials.
“The workshop helped me because if ICE knocked on my door, I now know what to do. I love America and I don’t want to go home. I have been here 13 years. My parents and brothers and sisters are all U.S. citizens but I was petitioned as married so it will take longer. I have to send three boys to school,” Ford (last name withheld), 56, said.
Another story that came to light was Rose (last name withheld), 62, who has been working as a caregiver. In August 2015, she was assigned to a woman in her 90s, who was diagnosed with dementia. The patient lived on a large estate by herself and was being cared for by undocumented caregivers because of her mental condition.
One night, the patient claimed Rose stole her money and was sent by her daughters to kill her. The elderly woman chased Rose around the property with a knife.
“The knife was near my right shoulder so I called 911. A lot of tears falling down,” she recounted. “I screamed and yelled outside hoping someone would hear me. The neighbors just opened the lights, but no help.”
Eventually, the police came to take the patient to a mental institution and Rose stayed with a friend that night. When asked if she plans to stay here, she said, “If God allows me, I will have a U Visa.”
A U Visa is for individuals who have been victims of certain crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The psychological trauma that Rose endured has made a lasting impact until today.
Even though she would prefer to go back to the Philippines, she said has many family members she still needs to help. Out of 11 children, she is the youngest daughter and is the only one in her family who has a college degree.
To the undocumented workers, Lledo said, “You belong to this country. Who will take care of your kids? We need to support each other especially in this crisis where [people] are singled out by a racist government.”