Filipina on her way to attend daughter’s US wedding, held, deported
MANILA, Philippines—An elderly Filipino woman who was on her way to her daughter’s wedding in the United States was detained for six hours, berated, and threatened to be jailed by US immigration authorities before being deported back to the Philippines.
Carina Yonzon Grande, 63, a cancer survivor and a Philippine citizen who previously worked for the Asian Development Bank and has travelled to many countries, recounted her experience when she arrived in Seattle International Airport last October 1, which was her 13th travel to the US.
In an emailed statement from Ken Shaw, the fiancée of Steph Grande, she recalled how everything went fine with the arrival procedures until she was asked to go to a room where people were held for additional questioning.
“I was confined in that small room for six long hours. Questions about the purpose of my visit to the US were asked repeatedly by Officer Keavid Mam in a very arrogant manner,” Grande said.
The immigration authorities did not provide her with food or water the entire time she was detained, she recalled.
“I was asked to give names and corresponding contact numbers. I gave the details of my daughter Steph and my grandson Josh, 21 years old. I was asked for more names, so I gave the name and number of my Aunt Nerissa, who is nearly 90 years old and the sister of my late mother,” she said.
The immigration authorities went to a separate room to call up Grande’s relatives but she was not allowed to hear the conversations that took place.
“But Officer Keavid Mam came back into the room saying that I was a liar. He says my aunt told him that I will be taking care of her as a caregiver and will be paid $9 to $10 per day. I, of course, categorically denied this,” Grande said.
“While Officer Mam kept on repeating his questions about why I was in the US, a fellow officer by the name of Chang, joined and shouted, calling me a liar. He even searched my purse where I had wedding cards with money for my daughter and future son-in-law, and a birthday card for Joshua also with money and other stuff,” she said.
One officer who was passing by had asked his fellow officers “who is she, a TNT?” referring to illegal immigrants, Grande recalled.
The immigration supervisor, a certain Mr. Caldwell, then came and threatened to put her in jail if she kept lying.
“He even showed me the jail cell. I said, I am telling the truth, and that they can put me in jail because I will never ever admit doing the things I am wrongly being accused of,” she said.
Caldwell then went to another room and again called up Grande’s aunt Nerissa, whom he said admitted that Grande was working as a caregiver.
“Again, I categorically denied this because it is simply not true. I have never had any intention to work in the US,” she said.
After that, Grande recalled that Caldwell gave her two options after he supposedly met with higher officials. First was for her to be deported back to the Philippines on the flight the next day and second was for her to be put in jail and barred from entering the US for five years.
“Exhausted, hungry and sleep deprived, I chose option one. I knew that these people, who were accusing me without solid evidence, and who were relying on statements purportedly made by my Aunt Nerissa, would not accept any explanation from me,” she said.
“It is disheartening that at my age, I didn’t receive any respect from these officials. I was treated like a criminal. I was not allowed to talk to my daughter and grandson and my cellphone was taken away from me. Even after the interrogation concluded, they did not give it back to me,” Grande said.
She was able to talk to her aunt later who said that the immigration officers did not introduce themselves nor did they say they were calling form the Seattle International Airport.
“When the first officer called her, he told her he was a friend of mine. He didn’t tell Aunt Nerissa he was calling from the Seattle International Airport Immigration Office. Aunt Nerissa asked him if she could talk to me and he said: ‘Yes, later’ but it never happened,” Grande recalled.
“She also said the officer put words in her mouth,” Grande said.
Shaw said that his fiancée is heartbroken for her mother no longer being able to attend their wedding. He also said that he tried to get the full names of all the officers involved in her future mother-in-law’s ordeal.
“My fiancée is now heart broken – not only for her mother having to miss her wedding but also for the cruel treatment she was forced to endure by the government of the country she now calls home,” Shaw said.
“I have tried a couple of times since then to get the full names of the individuals who handled my future mother-in-law’s case, but apparently they are special and do-not-need-to-disclose information to the American public,” he said.
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