Filipina About To Be Deported Wins Appeal

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – “My husband John and I feel so happy that my case is on its way to being resolved,” this was the jubilant comment of Elizabeth Dag Um Keathley, of Bloomington, Illinois, who won a ruling from the Court of Appeals of the 7th Circuit in Chicago, Illinois last Aug. 22.

Ms. Keathley was being processed for deportation after admitting that she voted in federal elections in 2006 although she declared to an Illinois state official that she was a Filipino citizen.

In an email from her lawyer, Richard Hanus, the 33-year-old Keathley added, “It’s been a big stress on all of our family. We are so thankful to our Lord God, and especially to Mr. Hanus, with his 22-year experience, handling this case for us (which was) … positive for our case.

“We hope the matter will be resolved by being dismissed by Attorney General Eric Holder’s Office. We also hope that in the long run others facing this issue can be enormously helped by this case.

“We also feel for the multitude of others out there, who have, or will face these charges, as losing a work permit or deportation is completely life changing. Thanks to all involved, especially behind the scenes in Richard’s office.”

For his part, Mr. Hanus said, “My client and I are grateful that the 7th Circuit saw the inherent unfairness of having an otherwise law abiding individual face deportation only because she was lured into a process by a Secretary of State official.

“Her case is just one among hundreds, if not more, of individuals being misled down the path of voter registration, and voting.  Beth, like so many other innocent foreign nationals I have seen, clearly presented herself as a non-citizen of the U.S. yet was aggressively solicited for the voter registration processes – and now they face negative immigration consequences, such as in Beth’s case.  

SHOULD NOT PENALIZE HONESTY

“The 7th circuit now will allow immigration authorities to take into account what has been a systemic problem of unsuspecting individuals being wrongly waved through a voter registration process, and ultimately presented with permission to vote – before denying immigration benefits, or instituting deportation proceedings.  
“Just as we would not give a ticket to a motorist who is waved through a stop sign by a police officer, we should not penalize an honest, new arrival to the U.S. with deportation, after they are waved through the voter registration process by a state official,” Hanus concluded.

Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook, along with Senior Judge Kenneth Francis Ripple and Judge Michael Stephen Kanne, of the 7th Court of Appeals, in an opinion, said, “If the Immigration Judge (in Chicago) does credit Keathley’s statements about what occurred, the Department of Homeland Security should give serious consideration to withdrawing its proposal that she be declared inadmissible and be removed from the United States. The petition for review is granted, and the matter is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

In departing from a similar case “considered and rejected in Kimani v. Holder, No. 11-1497, the opinion said while Anthony M. “Kimani falsely represented himself to be a U.S. citizen when registering to drive and vote, Keathley contends that she represented herself to be a citizen of the Philippines, presenting both her Philippine passport and her K–3 visa” to the Illinois state official, who was asking Ms. Keathley if she wanted to register and vote in an election.

Although, he was not yet a U.S. citizen, Kimani registered to vote in 2003. In 2004, Kimani voted in general elections, misrepresenting himself as a U.S. citizen.

A NATIVE OF PANGATUCAN, BUKIDNON IN THE PHILIPPINES

In the case of Ms. Keathley, she married John Keathley, a U.S. citizen, in a marriage ceremony performed in the Philippines in 2003. In 2004, Ms. Keathley was issued a nonimmigrant K-3 visa so that she could live in the U.S. while awaiting decision for John’s application for her permanent residence as immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. Keathley is a native of Pigtauranan, Pangantucan, Bukidnon in the Philippines.

After arriving in the U.S., Elizabeth applied for and received a driver’s license. The State of Illinois also sent her a voter registration card and she voted in the November 2006 congressional elections.

When she was interviewed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) for her permanent residence application, she disclosed that she voted in the elections. Immediately, her application for green card was denied for violating 18 U.S.C. Sec. 611 “by voting in a federal election (that) renders her inadmissible, and thus ineligible for any benefit as John’s spouse. An immigration judge ordered her removal and the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed.”

Although by then she had voted, “she contends that she did not violate Sec. 611 because the state officials’ advice gave her a good defense of “entrapment by estoppel”—a misleadingly named doctrine that as we observed in Kimani should be called ‘official authorization’ instead. That name would better fit the doctrine’s actual nature and scope.”

Attorney Hanus initially introduced the legal defense of “entrapment by estoppel” that absolves an individual of legal responsibility in criminal proceedings but this was rejected by the Immigration Court.

The rejection prompted Mr. Hanus to seek the support of Professor Albert W. Alschuler, a legal scholar of Chicago’s suburban Evanston, Illinois-based Northwestern University, when they appealed the court’s ruling before the Board of Immigration Appeals to confirm the relevance of the defense in their defense. But the BIA likewise rejected this defense.  (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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Photo of Elizabeth Dag Um Keathley (jGLiPhoto courtesy of Atty. Richard Hanus)

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