Elderly Filipina Who Helped Chicago Church Community Deported After 30 Years in the U.S.

deported

In her search for a better life, Julita Bartolome left the Philippines to work as a maid in the United States back in 1988.

Over 30 years later, the 66-year-old wife of a pastor in Mount Prospect, Illinois was deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement back to her native country.

Bartolome, who was detained for over a month in McHenry County Adult Correctional Facility, was transferred to a detention center in Broadview prior to her deportation. She spent her last hours in the U.S. at the ICE facility, where she spoke to her husband, stepson and attorney via a telephone receiver through a window. She then boarded a plane in Chicago on Thursday afternoon and was scheduled to arrive in Manila at 9:55 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Evanston, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill have all tried, but failed, to stop her deportation, WBEZ reports. 

Bartolome’s family are now hoping they could still get her an immigrant visa by essentially applying for a green card from the Philippines.

According to her lawyer, Katherine Del Rosario, they are also trying to get her a waiver to allow her to re-enter the U.S. after the deportation. She said Bartolome had overstayed her visa and had no prior knowledge of navigating the immigration system nor access to a good lawyer until recently. 

Despite her difficulties in obtaining a proper visa, Del Rosario pointed out that Bartolome had “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 that she hasn’t called home for 30 years,” she was quoted as saying. 

In 2000, Julita Bartolome married Edgardo Bartolome, a custodian at Moody Bible Church and a pastor at Filipino Immanuel Baptist Church of Chicago. He was a widowed father of two whose first wife died of cancer.

Shortly after their wedding, Julita overstayed her visa and was granted voluntary departure and given 30 days to leave the country. 

When she tried to make an appeal for the case, the presiding judge dismissed it. Bartolome’s lawyer at the time reportedly did not inform her that it was dismissed and the removal was still in effect. Clueless about her visa status, she moved to Illinois with Edgardo and her children and began a new life there.

Del Rosario said that in 2002, the couple filed a family petition, called an I-130, which was then approved. However, Bartolome’s removal order meant that she had to wait 10 years before she could get her green card.

Without money to hire a proper immigration attorney, the family did not know what steps to take and thought that to apply for a green card, they had to refile the I-130 petition. Bartolome was arrested and taken into custody last month after the couple was called in for the I-130 interview by U.S. 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,” Del Rosario said. “She tried her best for the last 20 years to gain legal status in the U.S. If [this administration] is not going to exercise discretion on a person like this, who would they exercise discretion for?”

In the third and final request for Bartolome’s stay of removal, the family urged ICE to reconsider her deportation, citing how it would affect her husband.

Bartolome’s stepson, Aaron, pointed out Julita’s crucial role in helping her husband in the church.

“They go together to minister to people, visit people in the hospital, counsel people, or lead Bible studies,” he said. “And now my dad is planning to resign because he can’t do these things without her.”

President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigrants has led to the deportation of over 256,000 people in 2018.

Featured Image via YouTube / Balitang America TFC

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