Saturday, April 1, 2017

First Filipino deported as ICE ramps up arrests

Rey Galleon
REY GALLEON had just dropped off his 9-year old child off at school not knowing that later that day he would become the first Filipino to be deported since Donald Trump took office.

Galleon, a former crewman, had lived in the U.S. for seven years without the proper papers. His wife and children eventually joined him. 

Galleon came home to discover strangers interviewing his apartment neighbors trying to find the whereabouts of Galleon and his wife. Not knowing they were ICE agents, Galleon allowed himself to be questioned. 

He was arrested but they allowed him to go into his apartment to change his clothes. While inside, he warned his wife. His wife and younger child were able to slip out the back door to escape being arrested.

The immigration agents took Galleon to their office in Long Beach where they gave him an ultimatum: detention or deportation.

He was then escorted to Los Angeles International Airport, forced to use his own money to purchase a ticket and by 10 p.m. he was on a Philippine-bound plane.

It wasn't until he reached Manila was he able to call his wife and the Los Angeles-based Pilipino Workers Center (PWC).

PWC said the nonprofit could have helped Galleon if he had taken the proper steps.  With two US citizen children and no criminal record, they said he may have had a chance to fight off the deportation orders.

ICE agents intentionally intimidate their targets and never tell them their rights, PWC said.

“ICE, if you interact with them, are trying to get you to sign your own voluntary departure. He was asking for legal assistance and they were ignoring that and in the end they gave him false options," said Aqui Soriano Versoza of the Pilipino Workers Center.

"There was a bond process. If he was able to connect to legal services like here at PWC, we could've galvanized legal support and community support so that he could've gotten out on bond,” she added.

Galleon's deportation brings attention to an often-overlooked demographic: one of an estimated 1.5 million Asian immigrants in the U.S. without the proper documentation. Most of the attention has been directed to immigrants from Mexico and Central America. There are about 416,000 Asians without legal status in California.

Undocumented Asians prefer to keep a low profile, hoping that ICE continue to focus their actions on Latinos. But Galleon's arrest and deportation might signal a change in that thinking.

Galleon is not the first Asian to be deported since Trump became president, nor will he be the last. But the fear that makes them reluctant to speak out or join protests, is no less real in the Asian community. Added to this is the shame associated with being deported and makes Asians shy away from any legal aid such as offered by PWC and other legal groups.

Maybe this will force the AAPI community to seek alliances with other ethnic groups, not only over immigration but on other issues that may affect employment, housingm education, justice and inequality.