Pinoy that "jumped ship" hopes marriage can legalize his stay

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

NEW YORK – Jolinarh Letegio is one of the million or so undocumented Filipinos in the US.

He was a crewman for an international cruise line who jumped ship to be with the man he loves.

Letegio met Biloxi, Mississippi resident Phillip Seaman online in 2009. In 2010 they finally met in person in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

A year later, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives together.

Letegio said, “After a year we decided to be together and he wants me to stop working on the cruise ship and i came here 2011, he picked me up in Florida.”

Seaman said, “I picked him up in Florida and brought him back home.”
But not quite forever – unlike straight couples, Letegio could not marry his way into citizenship, back then.

Immigration lawyer, Attorney Ellaine Carr said, the couple tried many different ways to legalize Letegio’s status but failed.

“Medyo desperado yung case nila kasi, Si Jules crew member ang kanyang visa and he’s not eligible for adjustment of status,” Carr said, “Walang remedy, at that time yung DOMA was in place that was before the Windsor decisions parang napaka hopeless talaga ng case nila, tapos ayaw naman nilang maghiwalay tapos natatakot sila na hindi na muli silang magkasama.”

But when the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA was struck down in June – the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex married couples are entitled to all federal benefits entitled to opposite-sex married couples and that includes the benefit to petition your same-sex spouse for green card.

Letegio and Seaman who residents of the State of Mississippi that does not recognize same sex marriage, had to get married in New York where gay marriage is legal.

Seaman said, “This means we are going to be together for the rest of our lives, that no matter what happens, we’re gonna have certain rights now, and that’s the most important thing you know.”

“Sobrang tuwa po talaga,” Letegio said, “Hindi tanggap yung gay community sa atin di ba, sabi ng mga auntie ko, na kung magiging bakla ka,hindi ka ikakasal, you’ll live by yourself, nangyari itong araw ito, ito yung talagang totally changed my life, hindi totoo yung sinasabi nila na walang buhay ang pagiging gay, dahil I found a partner for the rest of my life.”

Seaman filed an I-130 Alien Relative Petition to legalize Letegio’s status Monday.

But Carr said that because Letegio was a crewman who jumped ship, he is not eligible to adjust his status without filing an additional provisional waiver.

Under the current law, Letegio must apply for a waiver at the US Embassy in Manila and demonstrate that Seaman would suffer extreme hardship if the waiver is not granted.

When his visa is finally approved, Letegio would then have to go home to the Philippines to get the visa and come back to the US with a new legal status.

Carr said, “Hindi lang yung marriage ang tinitingnan ng USCIS, ang isa pa nilang tinitingnan, which is a major requirement dapat bonafide ang marriage, meaning tutoo, it’s because of true love – so kung may true love may citizenship or greencard pa nakapaganda.”

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com

6 Comments on this post.

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  • Ellaine Carr
    8 October 2013 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    I am their immigration attorney. Thank you for featuring their story. Just a little clarification, under the current law, the waiver is filed in the United States (after the spouse petition is approved) before the applicant leaves the United States. The applicant returns to his/her country of origin after the waiver is approved. Sa ganitong paraan, ang separation ng mag-asawa ay hindi magtatagal. Salamat po.

  • Jorge Buesa
    8 October 2013 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    WOW that’s love when you jumped ship to be with a person you love ? Oh did you jumped ship so that you could stay in America ? Why you didn’t get together a year ago? Why now ! And a year ago you could live together some place where all gays live together, why America ?

    • Jules lee
      9 October 2013 at 2:07 am - Reply

      Hey Jorge

      Yes after my contract I didn’t return back home. And why after one year because that’s how we planned we make it sure everything will be in the right place till we decided and ready to face our new life to be together. And I didn’t jumped ship because I want to stay in America. My work is the best work travel everywhere I want to go. But love is love, and it is what it is..

      • Jorge Buesa
        9 October 2013 at 8:17 am - Reply

        Thank You for your remark ! Good luck in your marriage.

  • Kikay Pang0
    9 October 2013 at 9:05 am - Reply

    They’re both love to receive and catch … Don Tagala is getting jealous.

    • Arbi
      9 October 2013 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      @Kikay Pang0 … and your point is?

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