Three months ago, a 63-year-old Filipino from Anchorage, Alaska was among dozens of immigrants arrested in the Pacific Northwest during a three-day sweep by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
His wife spoke to ABS-CBN News on the phone, on the condition that their family remain anonymous.
She says her husband was at work, throwing out trash, when ICE agents apprehended him.
He was reportedly made to sign a document stating that he is an undocumented immigrant, and he did — despite the fact that he is not undocumented.
He is a legal permanent resident. She says he simply could not understand the agents.
“No read, no write ang asawa ko, anak. Pangalan lang nya ang alam nyang isulat,” said his wife. (“My husband can neither read nor write. He can only write his name.”)
He may not be undocumented, but her husband has a criminal record.
A few years ago, the personal care attendant company where he worked was charged with Medicare fraud. Dozens of people associated with the company, including himself, were implicated.
Medical assistance fraud is a felony — a deportable offense. But she says her husband already took a plea agreement.
Her husband, fearing that he would be imprisoned after he was arrested a few months ago, agreed to a speedy deportation. Her husband is now at a detention facility in Seattle.
“Kung magtatagal daw sya sa kulungan, uwi na lang ako sabi nya baka mamamatay pa ako dito, sabi nya.” (“If he would have to stay long in jail, he says he would rather go home to the Philippines than die while in detention.”)
She says her husband has health problems, and is going through depression while at the detention center.
“Sabi nya wala akong kausap, hindi ko naiintindihan ang mga sinasabi nila. Kung may kausap lang sana ako, masaya ako. Pero wala daw syang kausap.” (“He says he has no one to talk to inside the detention center, no one he could understand.”)
There is a massive backlog in immigration courts right now, primarily because they are understaffed. Her husband’s hearings have been postponed.
Despite agreeing to a speedy deportation, she still hopes her husband could fight his case. But she says they have no means to do so.
“Gusto nya pero wala naman kaming pera, anak.” (“He wants to fight his case, but we have no money.”)
She is calling on the Philippine government for help, because although the odds are stacked against her husband. She still wants them to be reunited in this country they now call home.