Protest tries to stop deportation of Pinay wife of U.S. soldier


Karla Gaerlan, baby Christopher, U.S. Army Specialist Thad Schmierer. Photo by rciriacruz

SAN FRANCISCO–Supporters of a young Filipino mother who is married to an active duty U.S. Army soldier protested Wednesday in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in an effort to stop her “voluntary” deportation.

Karla Gaerlan, an undocumented 28-year-old Filipino immigrant, faces deportation at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday, June 16, Father’s Day.

Friends, community supporters and her husband, Specialist Thad Schmierer, appealed to ICE to stop her expulsion. Lawyers from San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus are representing Gaerlan.

“I can’t imagine leaving my family,” said a tearful Gaerlan. “Please Mr. President, you’re a father too. Please don’t put me on a plane.”

Schmierer, a Specialist in the U.S. Army stationed in Northern California, is due to leave for training in a week. He and Karla have a nine-month-old child, Christopher. The family lives in Stockton. “I’m away a lot and I’m afraid to come home and my family won’t be there,” he told the press.

The result of S-Comm

Gaerlan’s predicament began after Christopher was born, when she began struggling with severe post-partum depression. During a serious argument between her and Schmierer, she scratched him. Both said the scratches were light, but a concerned relative called the police, who arrested Gaerlan.

Then, the controversial ICE “Secure” Communities or S-Comm deportation program kicked in.

Protesters gather in front of Immigration offices in San Francisco to support Gaerlan. Photo by rciriacruz

Even though Karla was not convicted of a crime, a voluntary immigration “hold” request trapped her in the San Joaquin county jail for eight days when she otherwise would have been quickly released.

Next, immigration authorities picked Karla up from the jail. Thad waited outside ICE’s office, unable to get information about what was happening to his wife. ICE agents allegedly proceeded to give her false information and threatening her.

“I was forced to waive my rights,” Gaerlan alleged. “They didn’t tell me I was qualified to get a green card. When I asked to see a judge an immigration officer yelled in my face, saying they will send me away and I won’t be able to come back if I don’t sign a paper agreeing to voluntary departure.”

Gaerlan said officers told her falsely that if she signed she would be back in the U.S. in two months. She signed the paper.

Controversial process

ICE and the Border Patrol offer voluntary departures to some immigrants without criminal records, sparing them the possibility of stiffer penalties under formal deportation orders. Voluntary departures prohibit immigrants from re-entering the U.S. for up to 10 years.

Civil rights advocates have criticized immigration officers for using voluntary departures as a way of coercing detainees into signing away their rights. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a landmark lawsuit over the abuse  the “voluntary” departure process just last week. Critics also said that ICE has a deportation quota of 400,000 expulsions a year, and that this pressure is a likely cause of the abuse of the process.

“We asked for a stay from the Stockton ICE, but we were denied,” said Anoop Prasad, immigrant rights staff attorney with Asian Law Caucus. “We filed with Sacramento and were also denied. We filed with San Francisco and can go on to Washington, but we’re running out of time. Karla’s departure is this Sunday.”

Gaerlan’s supporters. Photo by rciriacruz

Married while in detention

Schmierer leaves for military police training in a week. Their son would leave with Karla for the Philippines. Schmierer and Gaerlan have been in a relationship for almost two years. He had been planning to propose to he this July, he said, and marry her before his deployment. Gaerlan’s detention forced the couple to speed up their plans, and they were married while she was detained.

Since its inception, S-Comm has deported some 96,800 Californians, nearly seven in ten of whom had either no convictions or minor ones. Many were witnesses or victims of crimes, according to a Caucus lawyer.

A bill by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (AB 4 – the TRUST Act), passed by the Assembly on May 16, would limit immigration holds only to people convicted of serious or violent felonies.

Supporters appealed to California Governor Jerry Brown to sign the bill. “Had the governor signed the bill before Karla was picked up, she wouldn’t be in this predicament today,” said one of them.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Flexiblechair

    Why in the hell she’s undocumented in the first place!!??, she does’nt deserve any pity or rights there are countless U.S. immigrant visa applicants who’s waiting patiently for their visa to be processed….just because she got caught she deserves pity and rights…thats “murica” for you!

  • batangpaslit

    INS is estopped.
    She’s legally married to an American national.
    Unless, U.S. Immigration could prove that their marriage is a “marriage for convenience”, then, that is altogether a different matter.

    • tolelot

      are you sure that shes married to an american national?basa ulit..

      • Ncarreonjr

        Gaerlan got married with her american boyfriend only after she was put in detention by ICE(immigration). In short, she was living here illegally and was previously involved in a physical altercation with her boyfriend where the police was called and that is the reason why she was singled out for deportation. Her marriage with her american boyfriend will/might save her from deportation. Only time will tell.

  • randyaltarejos

    Kung sino pa yung kababayan mo ay yun din ang tatapak sayo. Porke ba’t mga naturalized citizens na tong mga hayupak na iba nating kababayan ay akala nila sino na sila. Bakit Dyos ba kayo at dapat kayo lang ang me karapatan dito sa mundong ibabaw? At yong ibang mga tao, kagaya nitong kawawang Pinay na to na walang ibang hangad kundi ayusin ang kanyang buhay, sa tingin nyo ay hampas lupa? Ugali talaga nating ay mga makasarili. Mga walang budhi!!!

    • Flexiblechair

      Huwag mong unahin ang emosyon mo iisipin mong mabuti ang mga punto. sinadya nya maging illegal sa amerika, walang ibang hangad para ayusin ang buhay nya ba kamo…bakit nya pinili maging illegal?, makakapasok ka lamang sa bansang amerika sa pamamagitan ng Tourist Visa o Working/Professional/Student/Entertainers at Petitions mula sa kamag anak, ang punto ng argumento ay ito; Pinili nyang maging illegal ng matagal hangang nag ka anak sha (na ugali na nating mga pilipino sa Amerika na mag TNT), ngayon nahuli siya tapos hihingi siya ng karapatan at kakaawaan mo pa, isipin mo ang mga ibang kababayanan natin na mataimtim na nag hihintay ng 5 hangang 12 taon o higit pa para ma proseso ang kanilang VISA at sa mga nag take 3 or take 10 sa interview ng konsulado para maka tungtong sa bansang ito, isang malaking pagkakamali para mo siya kampihan at kaawaan. ito ba ay patas? sa tingin ko ay hindi, una palang sa kanyang panayam sa konsulado ay meron na siyang intensyon na mag overstay sa amerika, dun palang ay sa tingin ko ay puntong hindi siya dapat bigyan ng karapatan at kaawaan sa madaling sabi “nag sinungaling siya sa konsulado”. tayong mga pilipino ay laging kumakampi sa inaapi,talunan at inaalispusta, pero huwag natin ipangibabaw ang emosyon natin dapat pagisipan natin punto per punto at mga rason para magkapag isip tayo ng tama.

  • teraytaray

    We should respect and obey laws, she assaulted her fiance, and was reported to the police, she is in America so what does she expect? The US authorities have cause to deport her, so why can’t she leave voluntarily for real and wait for her papers to be sorted out so she can enter the US legally, she’s already married right?

  • KarlosRegaza

    Dreaming of living in the land of milk and honey…

    No offense for those Filipina wanting to marry Americans. Are you sure you want to marry the man? or the opportunity of instant poverty graduation?

    • Ncarreonjr

      Marrying an american or any other nationality for that matter is no guarantee you will escape poverty. There are a lot of homeless and jobless ex soldiers and civilians here especially nowadays. Even fully employed americans, a lot of them are living paycheck to paycheck due to poor economic conditions. The american good old days are long over. Impressions of this country from the outside is entirely different from reality. Marrying somebody for economic reasons has a lot of loopholes/possible problems.

      • KarlosRegaza

        I agree. Visiting foreigners most of them just up for sex. Very few for real marriage..

  • boybakal

    ICE is really a terrible bunch of people…they sow fear among illegals.
    But once they come to the Philippines, they will change.
    As this ICE would be kaskas for Halo Halo.

  • Matty099

    It is her fault and she should suffer the consequences.

    Does she realize that thousands of Filipinos are suffering because of what she did?(Overstaying her tourist visa). Now, expect the US Embassy in Manila to be stricter in issuing tourist visas to Filipinos. It will now be an exclusive privilege to RICH Filipinos who do not have the reason to go TNT in American since they have lots of assets and cash in the Philippines.

    • Ncarreonjr

      The blame is not entirely on her. Blame also all filipinos who went to the US all these years before her who overstayed their tourist visas. Also blame the Philippine corrupt politicians all these years which force filipinos to seek greener pastures by overstaying. Blame also thousands(3 thousand) of hispanics who successfully cross the US land border every night of which US border security cannot stop which indirectly makes americans feel they are overwhelmed and therefore must limit further issuance of visas on other countries like the Phil. which do not have have a land border with them. It is a complicated issue and Gaerlan’s predicament is just a result of those various problems with no easy solutions. I am sure nobody wants to be in her shoes either.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks




latest videos