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Fil-Ams’ action halts deportation of Filipino in US

/ 03:25 AM November 16, 2011

LOS ANGELES—He has become the latest symbol of a broken immigration system as well as a symbol of hope for the 1 million undocumented Filipinos in the United States.

While his compatriot Manny Pacquiao was warming up for his fight with Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez  on Saturday evening in Las Vegas, an undocumented Filipino, Jose “JB” Librojo, was at San Francisco International Airport waging his own fight—for his right to stay in America.

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Reluctantly abiding by a deportation order from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Librojo prepared to board a plane for Manila on Saturday. As he waited at the airport, ICE officials told him he did not have to leave—for now.

“I won the first round,” the jubilant Librojo, a 31-year-old dental assistant in California, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Tuesday. “It’s not over yet, but thanks to my family, friends and members of the Filipino-American community who rallied behind me … I’m still here to fight in the next round.”

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A native of Laguna, Librojo was 15 years old when he and his family moved to San Francisco, California, in 1995 after they were given political asylum.

In 2005, Librojo and his family received deportation orders after their visas were not renewed. Librojo’s parents left the United States voluntarily in 2006 while his sister moved to Canada.

Librojo, married to his former schoolmate Anna de Gorostiza, stayed on.

Saying Librojo was a victim of a broken immigration system, several community groups, including change.org and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (Nafcon), recently launched a campaign to stop his deportation.

Hope for other Filipinos

Thousands signed online petitions, sent out letters and  e-mails, while also making phone calls to lawmakers, including Senators Diane Feinstein and Dick Durbin.

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Deluged with appeals for help for Librojo, the two senators, both allies of President Barack Obama, reportedly sent letters to ICE in support of Librojo.

Librojo’s lawyer, Arnedo Valera, said the senators’ staff contacted him about the case. He also had meetings with the staff of Durbin, who is currently the assistant Senate majority leader.

“This is not just about one person’s victory,” said Annie Sayo, Nafcon regional coordinator for Northern California. “This victory symbolizes hope for the one million undocumented Filipino immigrants in the United States.”

Immigration overhaul

Nafcon national spokesperson Rico Foz said he hoped the Filipino-American community would continue to flex its political muscle to support Librojo, and called for an immigration system overhaul to provide paths to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

Librojo has been approved for an employment-based immigrant visa, which will allow him to adjust his status and become a permanent resident or green card holder.

However, the Department of Homeland Security refused to reopen his case to pave the way for this process.

Librojo’s supporters also argued that the deportation order was not consistent with the new Obama administration policy to avoid deporting illegal immigrants who were not criminals.

Dream Act

Librojo has never committed a crime and has filed his income tax return regularly as a full-time registered dental assistant and dental lab X-ray technician.

He is also a Dream Act-eligible candidate who came to the United States lawfully as a child and has lived in the country for 16 years.

The Dream Act is a legislative proposal that would provide conditional permanent residency to undocumented immigrants of good moral character who arrived in America as minors, graduated from US high schools and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment.

Librojo attended Westmoor High School in Daly City, California, and obtained a BS degree in Biology from San Francisco State University. He is a member of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity.

Fast-paced deportations

Valera, who credited Librojo’s first-round victory to a “fusion of political and legal action,” will file today a  motion asking the Department of Homeland Security to reopen his case and give his client a chance to apply for a green card.

For the past few years, immigration authorities have sustained a fast pace of deportations, removing nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants in each of the last three years.

In a June 17 memorandum, ICE Director John Morton laid out guidelines in deciding whether to exercise prosecutorial discretion to dismiss a deportation.

The memo calls for “particular care and consideration” of veterans and active-duty troops, elderly immigrants and minors, and those brought here as children.

“This memorandum declares a right for Mr. Librojo and other undocumented immigrants who do not fall within the groups prioritized for deportation to seek forms of administrative relief available to them,”  Valera said in a letter to the staff of Senator Durbin. With a report from Inquirer Research

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TAGS: Deportation, Immigration, Jose Librojo, Overseas Filipinos, US
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