GULFINS’ PRAYER WARRIORS: Part of the large crowd at Sunday’s prayer rally in in Eatontown, N.J. to save the Gulfin family from being deported.  (Photo by Matty Morallos)

The Gulfin family of Tinton Falls, N.J. will not board the flight that will send them back to the Philippines on Sept. 30, as the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF) asked U.S. immigration to hold in abeyance the deportation until it decides the fate of the Filipino family in light of a new federal policy ordering authorities to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” on removal proceedings and suspend deportations of those who pose no threat to national security or public safety.

“We’re not defying the U.S. immigration,” declares the Gulfins’ counsel J.T. Mallonga, who heads FALDEF.

“We’re simply requesting authorities to provide us answer on our request for deferred action status on the basis of the memo of (Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief) John Morton, and endorsed by President Barack Obama.”

Mallonga said the Gulfins — Carmelo and Aurelia and their son Miguel Rodrigo — will report at JFK International Airport for their scheduled departure on Sept. 30.

The Gulfins have purchased their tickets early August upon their immigration officer’s order.

But the three deportees won’t board the plane and will stay behind with supporters from Couples for Christ, and officials of FALDEF and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), said Mallonga, whose FALDEF is coordinating with the New York Immigration Coalition.

“We will present the Gulfins at the airport on the 30th but we will protest their departure,” Mallonga said, adding that the U.S. immigration will be notified this week about the plan.

“We will request to hold the departure of the Gulfins until there is a decision on application for deferred action status.”

Mallonga said the Gulfins may be arrested for not leaving, but they cannot be forced to board the plane.

“However, they can be arrested and detained until they (authorities) change their minds,” he said.

“The Gulfins, and all of us, are willing to take the risk.”

“On Sept. 30, we will finally be able to test the sincerity of the federal government in its pronouncements, and if there is a disconnect on the pronouncements of the White House, the ICE and the Department of Homeland Security. We will find out if the government is not being true to its words.”

The White House recently outlined new rules that some immigrants — such as those who are not threats to society and those who would qualify under the DREAM Act, should be allowed to stay and apply for work permit.

Federal authorities are now reportedly reviewing 300,000 pending cases, but it’s not clear if the Gulfins, who have final deportation orders, will be considered.

Mallonga said he has formally filed an appeal with New Jersey ICE’s legal adviser, but has yet to receive a reply.

‘1st case of DREAMer’

The Gulfins’ son Miguel is believed to be the first case of a “DREAMer,” who is actually in imminent danger of deportation, said Mallonga, referring to 2.1 million immigrants eligible for the DREAM Act now pending in the U.S. Congress.

Short for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, DREAM Act has been bounced back and forth between the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and repeatedly failed since introduced in 2001.

The bill seeks to create an avenue for children brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 obtain green card, by serving two years in the military or attending college within six years of high school graduation.

Miguel was only seven when his parents brought him to the U.S. in 1991.

The family lost their legal status when their tourist visas expired.

Miguel completed grade school and high school in New Jersey, and at one point pursued a college degree in communications at Brookdale Community College, where he was on the Dean’s List, until he stopped due to immigration troubles, including a six-month incarceration with his parents at an immigration detention center.

He later finished a two-year associates degree course in automotive mechanics to help his father in their family-owned auto repair business.

He said he intends to finish college if the situation permits him.

Last week, Miguel met for the first time with a fellow Filipino DREAMer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who helped the Manhattan launch of an inter-faith campaign backing DREAM Act.

The two, both represented by FALDEF, compared notes.

The feds have not made any move to deport Vargas since he came out in the open as an undocumented immigrant.

Mallonga said Vargas “is too hot an item to handle.”

“Unlike Miguel, I’m not in deportation proceedings,” Vargas was quoted as saying.

“How do I feel about that? In many ways, it underscores just how broken the system is.”

Vargas told the New York Daily News that he and Miguel are part of the older generation of “DREAMers” who came to the U.S. as children and were students when the DREAM Act was introduced in 2001.

“We represent just how old the problem is with immigration,” said Vargas.

ICE does not comment on specific cases, citing confidentiality and privacy issues.


Carmelo and Aurelia Gulfin renders a gospel song for their supporters at a prayer rally in Eatontown, N.J. on Sunday.  (Photo by Matty Morallos)

Rally draws 250

Meanwhile, about 250 people, some of then non-Filipinos and many members of Couples for Christ, showed up at a prayer rally for the Gulfins on Sept. 18 at St. Dorothea Parish Gym in Eatontown, N.J.

Speakers took turns in underscoring the facts that the Gulfins have no criminal history, are well-respected civic and church leaders, paid taxes and run a business, and have been in the U.S. for a long period of time with immediate families who are all U.S. citizens.

Among those who attended the rally were Mallonga and fellow lawyer and FALDEF official, Merit Salud, with Nimfa Tinana and Rose Rosales of NaFFAA.

Mallonga disclosed that FALDEF, NaFFAA and the New York Immigration Coalition, are currently lobbying members of the U.S. Senate and the House to press the U.S. immigration come up with an immediate decision on the request on behalf of the Gulfins for deferred action application before Sept. 30.

“The Gulfins’ case is no longer a legal issue, but a moral one,” Mallonga told the rally crowd.

Mallonga said FALDEF is willing to extend legal services to others who may qualify under the DREAM Act.




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