by Pat Nabong, ABS-CBN News
CHICAGO — A murky legal system and lack of access to proper legal counsel. Those were the barriers that led to Julita Bartolome’s deportation on August 23, according to her attorney, family and friends.
Katherine del Rosario, the family attorney, said, “I think in Julie’s case it all kind of goes back to access to counsel, access to good legal advice, which she just didn’t have for this 20-year period.”
Julita thought she was doing the right thing when she walked into this building for an interview with USCIS on July 17. But the effort to legalize her presence in the U.S. only led to her deportation.
“Pastor Ed really believed that he and his wife were honoring God and obeying the law by going into this interview,” said Jay Ketanus.
Julita came to the U.S. as a domestic worker, applied for asylum and was denied. Her attorney at that time reportedly failed to notify her that she had to leave the country. She married Edgardo, a custodian and pastor who was a U.S. citizen.
In 2002, they filed an I-130 petition.
“My parents didn’t know what steps to take in order to have the deportation order cancelled and for my mom to get her green card so they kept … visiting the immigration office, they kept writing letters to government officials,” said Aaron Bartolome, stepson of Julita.
Bartolome told ABS-CBN News in a statement that his parents had no idea how to fight the deportation case, but they kept reaching out to immigration officials.
In 2017, they filed another I-130 petition.
“His intention was to reopen the case but really it brought her to the attention of ice cos that’s when they got called in for an interview.”
Her I-130 petition was approved after the interview in July 2019, according to Del Rosario. But on the same day, ICE detained her for over a month at the McHenry adult correctional facility before deporting her to the Philippines.
Aaron said authorities did not tell them where she was and they couldn’t find her for days.
The Bartolomes then found an attorney, which they did not have up until that point.
Friends have set up a GoFundMe to help the Bartolomes, but others haven’t been sympathetic.
“There are also many who continue to believe that if she had just obeyed the law that none of this would have happened but of course this couple really believed that they were obeying the law … and yet this still happened to them.”
“I want people to have compassion on families who are suffering because they’re being separated.”
Aaron said people should have compassion for families who are forced to separate because of America’s broken immigration system.
The GoFundMe page for the Bartolomes is meant to pay for the family’s legal expenses and help Edgardo pay for a plane ticket to the Philippines to visit Julita in Cavite.
Julita is residing there with her relatives while taking steps to apply for an immigrant visa.