Fil Am Lawyer Obtains A Green Card In Record Time

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – A Filipino American lawyer might have recorded the fastest time to obtain a green card – in “less than two minutes.”

Legal counsel Arnedo Valera appears to have broken the record set by another Filipino American lawyer, the late Renato L. Amponin, who told this writer that he once handled an immigration case of a Filipina criminal case witness, who obtained “within hours,” a green card, a document that allows a foreigner to obtain permanent residence in the United States.

Valera said that his client, Susan Hinaut, was issued a green card “in less than two minutes” by an immigration officer in Long Island, New York when the officer found out that she needed to go home to the Philippines to bury her son the day before her scheduled interview.

Valera said that during the interview, the officer “offered her condolence to Susan and remarked she must go home right away. Children are supposed to bury their parents, not the parents burying their children. I will issue your green card right away,” Ms. Hinaut was quoted as saying by Mariver R. Montebon, managing editor of Migrant Heritage Chronicle.

The officer’s remark left Ms. Hinaut dumbfounded and in tears, saying, “I couldn’t believe it. I thanked the officer endlessly and I cried.” She was not interviewed any further.

“No one really knows one’s fate when one enters into the immigration office to apply for permanent residency status. But Susan is just one of those so lucky enough to be approved quickly.” Valera said. “This is a random act of kindness that does not happen all the time.”

Filipinos, along with Mexicans, are among the intending immigrants who have to wait in line the longest as they have the most number of applicants. They are waiting as long as 17 years before their visas become available.

Valera credited President Barack Obama for speeding up the case of Ms. Hinaut when Mr. Obama signed on Oct. 28, 2009 immigration rule 204 (l) and 213 A (f) (5) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which allows spouses and children of US citizens to self-petition following the death of the petitioner.

TESTIFIES AGAINST THE CRIMINAL SYNDICATE

Attorney Amponin told this writer that in the late seventies or early eighties, one of his clients (a Filipina) approached him, asking if she should testify in a criminal case after her husband was entangled in ‘a criminal syndicate.’ I told her she should only testify in favor of the U.S. government if the U.S. government would assure her of protection, including the grant of a green card. Within hours, my client got her green card.”

Hinaut’s ten-year wait for her permanent residency status, like everyone else, had been long and painful. She arrived in the US in June 2001 and waited for her father’s approved petition for her residency to be the processed.

In 2009, she applied for self-petition upon knowing about the new rule and was finally scheduled for interview in October this year, dramatically a day after her son died of lymphoma cancer in the Philippines.

“I felt very sad and scared days before my interview. It is very uncertain. And I had to deal with the fact that my son was dying. I talked to him through Skype the day before he passed away,” she recounted.

Three weeks after her much-awaited homecoming in Siquijor province in the Philippines, Susan returned to New York and was in no time back to her work as a caregiver to an elderly citizen. “It was good to be home and see all my children. I was both sad and happy. I believe all things happen for a reason. It feels like I am being born again,” she beamed, but with tearful eyes.

DREAM ACT CANDIDATES

Valera was also the lawyer of Jose I. Librojo, whose deportation on Nov. 12 was stayed, after securing support from the Filipino American community, who petitioned the U.S. government and several U.S. senators to allow him to stay in the U.S. and obtain his green card.

Librojo got a reprieve last Friday, Nov. 18, from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which allowed him to stay in the U.S. for one year while he seeks to legalize his stay. Librojo applied for his green card at once.

Librojo, 31, a full-time registered dental assistant and dental laboratory x-ray technician, was in line for deportation when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied his application for permanent residency last June.

But it also came on the heels of the announcement of US CIS Commissioner John Morton, providing for guidelines on how to deal with the Obama Administration’s treatment of “low-priority deportations” that will not deport illegal immigrants, who have no felony charges.

And Librojo’s case also came as a beneficiary of the DREAM Act that would have allowed children of illegal immigrants, who finished high school education in the U.S., to stay in the U.S. if they arrived in the U.S. 16 years old or below. The DREAM Act, which was passed in the Senate last December, was rejected by the House of Representatives.

It was the same measure that forced Filipino Pulitzer Prize awardee Jose Antonio Vargas to out himself as an illegal immigrant, to provide the human face of the DREAM Act that Vargas says deserves the support of the American people.

Out of the estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in U.S. as of March 18, 2011, the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research institute based in Washington, D.C., estimates 11% are from Asia, including the Philippines.  (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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