The first known undocumented Filipino immigrant in Southern California to be deported under the Donald Trump administration has spoken about the abrupt end to his life in America.
Rey Galleon, who came to the US seven years ago after he jumped ship, has been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and swiftly deported out of the country.
Galleon had just dropped off his 9-year-old child at school March 17 when he found people at his apartment complex asking neighbors where he and his family were. He spoke to them unknowing that they are ICE operatives set out to arrest him. But while he was allowed inside to change clothes, Galleon alerted his wife who is also in the country illegally to sneak out of a backdoor with one of their children.
He was then brought to a Homeland Security Office in Long Beach and told him to make a choice.
“Pinapili nila ako kung uuwi ba ako or gusto ma detain,” he said.
Later that night, Galleon was escorted to the Los Angeles International Airport and was on a Philippines-bound plane on a ticket that he paid for by himself. It was the only time he was permitted to talk to his wife again.
Caught by surprise by ICE and with no access to legal help advocates, there could’ve been a different outcome if he was more informed, according to officers of an advocate group Pilipino Workers Center. With two children with US citizenship and no prior criminal record, they say he may have had a chance to fight off the deportation orders. However, they added that ICE agents will intimidate their targets without telling them their rights.
“ICE, if you interact with them, are trying to get you to sign your own voluntary departure. He was asking for legal assistance and they were ignoring that and in the end they gave him false options. There was a bond process. If he was able to connect to legal services like here at PWC, we could’ve galvanized legal support and community support so that he could’ve gotten out on bond,” said Aqui Soriano Versoza of the Pilipino Workers Center.
Nowhere to go, Galleon’s wife and his two children followed him home to Zamboanga a week later.
He is scheduled to address a group of undocumented workers at the Pilipino Workers Center during a session of Know Your Rights Workshop.
Although the former crewman’s seven years of stay in the US may have come to an end, he hopes his story can unify and warn his fellow countrymen and give them a fighting chance to stay in the United States.