The United States deported a 66-year-old Filipina after a two-decade quest for US citizenship, a Chicago-based radio station reported.
According to a WBEZ 91.5 report Thursday, attempts to stop the deportation of Julita Bartolome by two Democrat lawmakers failed.
Bartolome came to the United States in 1988 as a domestic worker but overstayed her visa. Her lawyer, Katherine Del Rosario, told WBEZ that Bartolome lacked access to a good counsel and did not know how to navigate the immigration system until recently.
“This case is about a woman with no criminal history and actually a very long history of benevolent volunteerism and involvement in her church and her community. She’s being sent back to a country she hasn’t called home for 30 years,” Del Rosario was quoted as saying in the report.
Bartolome’s flight departed Chicago at 1:20 a.m. Friday (Manila time).
Bartolome lived in Florida until 2000 when she married Edgardo, a widowed father of two.
WBEZ reported that Bartolome was granted a voluntary departure and given 30 days to leave the US after overstaying her visa. She appealed the case but lost.
Del Rosario said Bartolome’s lawyer at the time did not notify his client that the appeal was junked and that the removal was still in effect. During that period, Bartolome moved to Illinois.
In 2002, the couple filed a family petition called I-130, which was granted. Because of the removal order, Bartolome had to wait 10 years to receive a green card.
They refiled the I-130 petition a decade later to apply for a green card.
Taken into custody at interview
Bartolome was arrested and taken into custody last month after the couple was called in for the I-130 interview by US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Everything about her case is approvable except for the fact that she didn’t get the right advice from the right people at the right time. She tried her best for the last 20 years to gain legal status in the US,” Del Rosario was quoted as saying.
She added: “If [this administration] is not going to exercise discretion on a person like this, who would they exercise discretion for?”
Bartolome’s husband is a pastor at Filipino Immanuel Baptist Church of Chicago.
“They go together to minister to people, visit people in the hospital, counsel people or lead Bible studies. And now my dad is planning to resign because he can’t do these things without her,” Aaron, Bartolome’s stepson, told WBEZ.
The family now plans to seek an immigrant visa and a waiver so Bartolome can re-enter the United States after the deportation.
The US deported more than 256,000 people in 2018 as part of US President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigrants.