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  • DEPORTATION SEEN IN A CLOSER PERSPECTIVE

    From SFGATE newspaper
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl.../22/CUEVAS.TMP

    ---------------

    A home they hardly knew
    Family deported from Bay Area after 19 years explores life in native Philippines
    --------------

    Delfin and Lily Cuevas glanced back and forth at the empty seat behind them. Their flight to Manila was set to take off, and their 23-year-old son was nowhere to be found.

    A Philippine Airline employee relayed a message on a walkie-talkie to authorities at San Francisco International Airport: "Minus one, Dale Cuevas."

    Delfin picked up his cell phone and called Dale. No answer. Delfin and Lily feared that their son had become a fugitive.

    For the past six months, the Fremont family had tried unsuccessfully to stay in the land they had called home for 19 years.

    Now it was time for deportation.

    Dale had not gone far. He was making his way toward the security checkpoint in the international terminal, among 60 friends -- not a dry eye anywhere. Before the 10:30 p.m. flight on June 30, he had been stealing as many extra moments in the United States as he could, even if the plane had to wait.

    A few minutes and many hugs later, Dale nonchalantly took his plane seat and reunited with his undocumented family: parents Delfin and Lily, and sisters Donna and Dominique. They had all booked seats in first class. They felt that if they had to leave their country, they wanted to go out in style.

    The Cuevases, living in America on expired visas, had filed for legal status in 1996. But after eight years of legal battles, immigration authorities had ordered in December that they be deported from the United States.

    At 10:35, Flight 105 left the Bay Area, and the Cuevas family -- banned from returning to the United States for the next 10 years -- headed for the unknown. During the 16-hour flight to Manila, they cried before passing out from exhaustion. No one had slept much in the past few weeks.

    After a connecting flight from the Philippine capital, the Cuevas clan landed near Cebu City in the early hours of July 2. They lost a day on the trip -- now it was a question of what else they had lost. Or, perhaps, gained.

    Five family members, five different experiences. And lives that would never be the same.

    Donna Cuevas, 24, stared out the tinted back window of a burgundy minivan for the 12-mile ride from Mactan International Airport to her new home in Cebu. Her aunt Tina pointed out Mactan Island, the American-style shopping mall and the provincial capital building.

    Donna said nothing.

    It hadn't helped matters that her parents and brother and sister were riding in another van to her grandmother's house, where the Cuevases would be staying temporarily. To Donna, the uncle and aunt and cousin in her van were strangers.

    She had left the Philippines at 6 and did not remember it. Not the five lanes of cars wedged into dusty, two-lane roads. Not the pedestrians darting in and out of traffic. Not the noisy, brightly painted jeepneys and tricycles. Not the open markets of fish and poultry that looked to be inviting every form of germ.

    Fremont was 7,000 miles away -- but it seemed even ****her.

    Suddenly, traffic forced the van to a halt. A newspaper vendor who resembled a bandit -- his head wrapped in black cloth to protect him from the sun, dust and gas fumes -- came up to Donna's window. She stiffened and slunk down in her seat.

    After about an hour's trip, the minivan pulled up to a wood and concrete structure, with two additions, that was behind a 10-foot-high concrete wall.

    "You don't remember this place, Don?" said Aunt Tina in English. "We're home."

    Again, there was no response from Donna, who along with her siblings grew up hearing Cebuano but never learned to speak the language.

    She wanted to be back in the comfort of her bedroom in the family's Fremont townhouse that she had shared for 10 years with younger sister Dominique. At about 80 square feet, it was small and crowded for two people. But at least it had been their own.

    And although her room in Cebu was twice as large, it was even more crowded. Donna had to share a bed with Dominique, while brother Dale and cousin Chris Campos slept in adjoining beds.

    Worse, the main house had only one bathroom, where the tap water temperature stayed the same -- too cold for showers, too warm for everything else.

    Seventeen family members, plus four maids, were now living on the property.

    Donna thought it was weird to have maids constantly coming in to clean up after her. She refused to eat Filipino food -- she wanted hamburgers and fries -- and ate only three bananas and some dim sum during her first three days in Cebu.

    She kept her wris****ch set at Pacific Daylight Time and figured out the local hour by adding 15 hours. "I don't think I'll ever change it," she said.

    Donna focused her attention on Dusty, a 2-year-old half-pit bull, half-German shepherd who came to the Philippines with the family. Dusty spent a lot of his time barking at the unfamiliar family members. He was always on a leash now -- and Donna felt just as restricted.

    Even her first steps out of the house, a trip to a Filipino shopping mall, could not lift her spirits.

    On the way there, the sight of so many stray dogs upset her. So did all the children begging on the streets. At the mall, she felt intimidated when the security guards checked her and everyone else at the entrance for weapons.

    "There are some places in Fremont where I didn't feel comfortable, but nothing compared to here," said Donna, who had earned an undergraduate psychology degree from California State University at Hayward in December. "There doesn't seem to be any order."

    But she knew that everything going on in front of her was for real -- and that she had to adjust. She began to initiate chitchat with her cousins, as long as it was in English.

    Lily Cuevas kneeled at the cemetery plot and placed flowers and lighted candles at the flat-plaque gravestone of her father, Angel.

    For the past 24 hours, Lily, Delfin and their three children had been traveling almost nonstop. But the 50-year-old Lily -- whose real name is Angelita after her father -- was determined to pay her respects before the family arrived at their new home.

    The cemetery visit lasted no more than 10 minutes. For Lily, it had never quite sunk in that her father was dead. Her undocumented status had made it impossible to be at his deathbed in 2000. She had been the only one of her seven siblings not present. A weakened Angel had insisted on speaking to Lily for the last time by phone, only hours before he died.

    On the way to her mother's house, Lily was taken aback by how much had changed about Cebu, which was more crowded than ever with 720,000 people. When someone asked later about the population, she joked: "Just add five more."

    Lily's father had built the family house in 1963. At the time, only one other home had existed in the area. Lily remembered mango trees and cornfields where there was now one property after another. This wasn't the place she had grown up.

    As different as Lily thought her hometown was, she couldn't imagine what her children were thinking. She was concerned that Donna was barely eating, but thought it best for her to deal with it in her own way.

    Lily also noticed that her 80-year-old mother, Jesusa Himalalo-an, seemed to be a lot more frail than the last time she had seen her in Fremont in 1997. Lily's siblings said Jesusa had worried incessantly about the Cuevases' deportation troubles. Jesusa took a lot of naps and wasn't able to greet the family at the airport.

    On the morning of July 5, as rain drummed on the house's tin roof, Lily was startled by a commotion down the hall in her mother's room. Her brothers were gathered around Jesusa, who was having trouble breathing. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital. Lily followed.

    During her mother's ordeal, the deportation trauma would begin to make sense for Lily.

    In her final months in the Bay Area, she had prayed for guidance at Old St. Mary's Church in San Francisco, but had come away with only a vague sense that God had something much better in mind.

    Yet as she spent every day at the hospital by her mother's side -- Jesusa barely survived but eventually returned home -- Lily realized that perhaps God indeed had given her a concrete answer.

    "I wasn't able to do something for my dad," said Lily. "Maybe I'm being given a chance to do something for my mom."

    Delfin Cuevas spent his mornings perusing the local newspapers, which occasionally ran stories and pictures of the family's return to Cebu. Delfin, who would have preferred to stay anonymous, was more interested in the job advertisements.

    But he didn't qualify for any of the posted positions. One ad required that applicants to a car dealership be 24-35 years old. An accounting clerk's position was available to someone "not more than 30." Delfin is 58.

    He missed his daily routine in the United States, waking up at 5 a.m., being at the BART station by 6, arriving at work in San Francisco by 7 and getting home by 6 p.m.

    Delfin had left the Philippines during the economic and political upheaval of 1984. He came to the United States with a visitor's visa and $200. Lily and the kids followed in 1985, but their visas expired after one year, making them illegal.

    In America, Delfin had taken any job available -- gas station attendant, janitor, building maintenance. In 2000, he had landed a position with the state unemployment agency, claiming in his job application that he was eligible to work in the United States.

    Now, 20 years after leaving the Philippines, he found himself back where he started -- without a job. "At my age, they're already retired here," Delfin said.

    At least now he could visit his siblings, whom he hadn't seen in 21 years.

    On July 7, he took an hourlong plane ride to Davao City to reunite with his sisters, who were at the airport to hug him. Delfin was armed with gifts: towels, coffee and plenty of chocolate candy bars.

    The entourage made the 10-mile trip in a rented jeepney to sister Consolatrix's house in a rural subdivision on the outskirts of the city. Banana trees lined the dirt roads.

    Delfin had long been craving kinilaw, raw tuna seasoned in vinegar and onions. And his five sisters did not disappoint.

    The sisters knew that their brother would be there for only about six hours, so they didn't invite anyone else for the feast in the modest wood-framed house. But they made sure to inform other relatives through cell phone text messages -- the national obsession of the Philippines.

    Delfin felt right at home during the visit. After 20 years of living in the shadow of Silicon Valley and the last four working in San Francisco, he remained a country boy at heart. The sisters insisted that Delfin bring his kids for the next visit.

    These days, Delfin's children were giving him a sense of much-needed purpose. His kids could not return to the United States, but that didn't stop Delfin from planning a bright future for them.

    For now, he felt like he was in good shape financially. He would sell the Fremont townhouse and then purchase a house near his mother-in-law's place. He also would send Donna, Dominique and Dale through nursing school at a nearby university starting in November.

    Maybe the three could secure jobs abroad, perhaps in Canada, Australia or Europe. Delfin knew that his children eventually would have to move forward.

    The day she landed in the Philippines, 21-year-old Dominique Cuevas bit her lower lip and held back tears. The stifling humidity prompted her to strip off her American Eagle sweatshirt and reveal the messages that friend Joanna Martinez had written in felt marker on her arms.

    One arm read, "Joanna's best friend." The other, "Precious cargo."

    Dominique carried a green scrapbook that detailed her final six months in America with pictures and handwritten messages from friends. For most of the plane trip, Dominique had clutched the keepsake to her chest as if she were holding on to dear life, her American life.

    At her new home in Cebu, she often talked to Campos, a New Jersey resident who had accompanied the family to the Philippines to help his cousins adjust. Before the Cuevases had left Fremont, Campos told Dominique and her siblings: "It's not going to be anything like California. It's different, which doesn't mean it's bad. It's just the Philippines."

    Dominique asked her cousins about clubbing, school and other things to do. She dabbled in Filipino restaurants and went to the mall to shop and see a late-night showing of "Spider-Man 2." And when she posed for family pictures, the youngest of the Cuevas children flashed a huge, winning smile.

    Then she retreated to her air-conditioned room and e-mailed friends back home about how much she missed them.

    Dominique had rebelled when she learned of the deportation back in Fremont. She had her tongue pierced and got a tattoo on her lower back -- an archaic Filipino script of her nickname, Ging. She had gone clubbing in San Francisco into the wee hours with friends.

    It was as if Dominique had found her independence, but only after it was given an American expiration date.

    To be sure, Independence Day back in the United States did not pass without Dominique's notice. She chatted with friends online and learned about their plans to watch fireworks in Monterey.

    Dominique's new room was full of reminders of her past life: two laptops that kept her connected to friends through e-mails and chat rooms; DVDs of American movies and TV series, such as "Family Guy" and "Nip/Tuck"; and of course, her green scrapbook of memories.

    Dominique, at the suggestion of a friend, tried to think of her exile as if she were just studying abroad.

    A week after her arrival in the Philippines, Dominique approached her father in private, and without a hint of irony, asked, "Can we go home now?"

    On July 8, Dale Cuevas ventured to an isolated beach on nearby Mactan Island with his sisters and his father.

    From the get-go, Dale did his own thing. With a cigarette in his mouth, he climbed almost 10 feet up a coconut tree for a photo op. He rented a jet ski to take a ride in the clear blue water. In between dips in the warm ocean, he stretched out on a chair and relaxed in the shade.

    Dale had worked the hardest to keep his family in the United States. He had tried unsuccessfully to meet with lawmakers to discuss the possibility of a private bill that would have granted his family permanent residence.

    But life had to go on.

    "I'm still young," said Dale, 23, "and I still have a lot to do."

    Minutes after arriving at his grandmother's house on his first day in the Philippines, he had changed into a tank top, shorts and flip-flops. He wanted to explore what was beyond the iron grates of his relatives' property as soon as possible.

    He woke up at 7 every morning -- compared to noon, at the earliest, in Fremont. Unlike his sisters, he tried to communicate in Cebuano, although the locals instantly detected that it was a foreign tongue to him.

    Dale asked one question after another.

    Why was a hotel security guard circling cars while holding a metal pole with a mirror attached at the bottom? (He was checking the vehicles' undersides for bombs.)

    What do the street vendors who weave through traffic sell? (Everything, from candy, to single sticks of gum and cigarettes, to hammocks.)

    Is it in style for men to shave their heads, as it is in the United States? (Yes.)

    Dale was ready to attend nursing school without all the distractions presented by the Bay Area and friends. He wanted to discover his Filipino heritage and was determined to drive as the locals do.

    He reconnected quickly with his cousin Giancarlo, 26, who used to share his Matchbox cars with Dale, even though Dale couldn't remember it. He had left when he was 4.

    The cousins now shared a love for real cars and racing. During Dale's first week in Cebu, Giancarlo took Dale to watch drag races and to drive go-carts.

    Dale was most excited about getting to know his relatives. He was eager to put the faces to the names after hearing about his Filipino family through American cousins. Dale also saw an opportunity to get closer to his parents and sisters.

    "We're eating three, sometimes four meals, together every day," he said. "I don't think all five of us have been at the same table in years."

    On their first Sunday in the Philippines, the Cuevases attended an English-language Mass at the Alliance of Two Hearts Parish in Cebu.

    The new church had iron gates instead of walls on the sides -- to allow air to circulate -- and dress was informal. The family had arrived for the 4 p.m. Mass early, a good thing because every pew was jammed. Late arrivals pulled up plastic stools in the back of the church.

    It had been a long time since the Cuevases had gone to church as a family, but in the Philippines, everyone went to church on Sundays. Delfin, Lily, Donna, Dale and Dominique would all take communion.

    Father Louie Punzalan was unaware of the family's presence at the Mass, but he seemed to be speaking specifically to the Cuevases during his sermon.

    He urged the congregation to travel lightly through life, to "bring only that which is essential." The statement drew a few chuckles from the Cuevases, who had packed most of their American belongings in a 40-foot freight trailer that they had shipped by sea to the Philippines.

    The promise of America was now in the Cuevases' past, replaced by the uncertainty of their future in the Philippines. But Father Punzalan offered comfort during his sermon's conclusion:

    "We have to learn to trust in God. Nobody feeds the birds in the sky, nobody waters the plants on the ground. But our Father takes care of them. Your Father will take care of you."

    Epilogue

    The Cuevas family recently bought a three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom house within walking distance of their relatives' home in Cebu.

    Lily spends most days taking care of her mother.

    Delfin continues to search for a job.

    Donna, Dale and Dominique are preparing for nursing school in November. They still chat online regularly with their friends in the United States.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Following the story
    Chronicle reporter Cicero Estrella and photographer Kim Komenich followed the Cuevas family to the Philippines after the family was deported from the Bay Area.

  • #2
    From SFGATE newspaper
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl.../22/CUEVAS.TMP

    ---------------

    A home they hardly knew
    Family deported from Bay Area after 19 years explores life in native Philippines
    --------------

    Delfin and Lily Cuevas glanced back and forth at the empty seat behind them. Their flight to Manila was set to take off, and their 23-year-old son was nowhere to be found.

    A Philippine Airline employee relayed a message on a walkie-talkie to authorities at San Francisco International Airport: "Minus one, Dale Cuevas."

    Delfin picked up his cell phone and called Dale. No answer. Delfin and Lily feared that their son had become a fugitive.

    For the past six months, the Fremont family had tried unsuccessfully to stay in the land they had called home for 19 years.

    Now it was time for deportation.

    Dale had not gone far. He was making his way toward the security checkpoint in the international terminal, among 60 friends -- not a dry eye anywhere. Before the 10:30 p.m. flight on June 30, he had been stealing as many extra moments in the United States as he could, even if the plane had to wait.

    A few minutes and many hugs later, Dale nonchalantly took his plane seat and reunited with his undocumented family: parents Delfin and Lily, and sisters Donna and Dominique. They had all booked seats in first class. They felt that if they had to leave their country, they wanted to go out in style.

    The Cuevases, living in America on expired visas, had filed for legal status in 1996. But after eight years of legal battles, immigration authorities had ordered in December that they be deported from the United States.

    At 10:35, Flight 105 left the Bay Area, and the Cuevas family -- banned from returning to the United States for the next 10 years -- headed for the unknown. During the 16-hour flight to Manila, they cried before passing out from exhaustion. No one had slept much in the past few weeks.

    After a connecting flight from the Philippine capital, the Cuevas clan landed near Cebu City in the early hours of July 2. They lost a day on the trip -- now it was a question of what else they had lost. Or, perhaps, gained.

    Five family members, five different experiences. And lives that would never be the same.

    Donna Cuevas, 24, stared out the tinted back window of a burgundy minivan for the 12-mile ride from Mactan International Airport to her new home in Cebu. Her aunt Tina pointed out Mactan Island, the American-style shopping mall and the provincial capital building.

    Donna said nothing.

    It hadn't helped matters that her parents and brother and sister were riding in another van to her grandmother's house, where the Cuevases would be staying temporarily. To Donna, the uncle and aunt and cousin in her van were strangers.

    She had left the Philippines at 6 and did not remember it. Not the five lanes of cars wedged into dusty, two-lane roads. Not the pedestrians darting in and out of traffic. Not the noisy, brightly painted jeepneys and tricycles. Not the open markets of fish and poultry that looked to be inviting every form of germ.

    Fremont was 7,000 miles away -- but it seemed even ****her.

    Suddenly, traffic forced the van to a halt. A newspaper vendor who resembled a bandit -- his head wrapped in black cloth to protect him from the sun, dust and gas fumes -- came up to Donna's window. She stiffened and slunk down in her seat.

    After about an hour's trip, the minivan pulled up to a wood and concrete structure, with two additions, that was behind a 10-foot-high concrete wall.

    "You don't remember this place, Don?" said Aunt Tina in English. "We're home."

    Again, there was no response from Donna, who along with her siblings grew up hearing Cebuano but never learned to speak the language.

    She wanted to be back in the comfort of her bedroom in the family's Fremont townhouse that she had shared for 10 years with younger sister Dominique. At about 80 square feet, it was small and crowded for two people. But at least it had been their own.

    And although her room in Cebu was twice as large, it was even more crowded. Donna had to share a bed with Dominique, while brother Dale and cousin Chris Campos slept in adjoining beds.

    Worse, the main house had only one bathroom, where the tap water temperature stayed the same -- too cold for showers, too warm for everything else.

    Seventeen family members, plus four maids, were now living on the property.

    Donna thought it was weird to have maids constantly coming in to clean up after her. She refused to eat Filipino food -- she wanted hamburgers and fries -- and ate only three bananas and some dim sum during her first three days in Cebu.

    She kept her wris****ch set at Pacific Daylight Time and figured out the local hour by adding 15 hours. "I don't think I'll ever change it," she said.

    Donna focused her attention on Dusty, a 2-year-old half-pit bull, half-German shepherd who came to the Philippines with the family. Dusty spent a lot of his time barking at the unfamiliar family members. He was always on a leash now -- and Donna felt just as restricted.

    Even her first steps out of the house, a trip to a Filipino shopping mall, could not lift her spirits.

    On the way there, the sight of so many stray dogs upset her. So did all the children begging on the streets. At the mall, she felt intimidated when the security guards checked her and everyone else at the entrance for weapons.

    "There are some places in Fremont where I didn't feel comfortable, but nothing compared to here," said Donna, who had earned an undergraduate psychology degree from California State University at Hayward in December. "There doesn't seem to be any order."

    But she knew that everything going on in front of her was for real -- and that she had to adjust. She began to initiate chitchat with her cousins, as long as it was in English.

    Lily Cuevas kneeled at the cemetery plot and placed flowers and lighted candles at the flat-plaque gravestone of her father, Angel.

    For the past 24 hours, Lily, Delfin and their three children had been traveling almost nonstop. But the 50-year-old Lily -- whose real name is Angelita after her father -- was determined to pay her respects before the family arrived at their new home.

    The cemetery visit lasted no more than 10 minutes. For Lily, it had never quite sunk in that her father was dead. Her undocumented status had made it impossible to be at his deathbed in 2000. She had been the only one of her seven siblings not present. A weakened Angel had insisted on speaking to Lily for the last time by phone, only hours before he died.

    On the way to her mother's house, Lily was taken aback by how much had changed about Cebu, which was more crowded than ever with 720,000 people. When someone asked later about the population, she joked: "Just add five more."

    Lily's father had built the family house in 1963. At the time, only one other home had existed in the area. Lily remembered mango trees and cornfields where there was now one property after another. This wasn't the place she had grown up.

    As different as Lily thought her hometown was, she couldn't imagine what her children were thinking. She was concerned that Donna was barely eating, but thought it best for her to deal with it in her own way.

    Lily also noticed that her 80-year-old mother, Jesusa Himalalo-an, seemed to be a lot more frail than the last time she had seen her in Fremont in 1997. Lily's siblings said Jesusa had worried incessantly about the Cuevases' deportation troubles. Jesusa took a lot of naps and wasn't able to greet the family at the airport.

    On the morning of July 5, as rain drummed on the house's tin roof, Lily was startled by a commotion down the hall in her mother's room. Her brothers were gathered around Jesusa, who was having trouble breathing. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital. Lily followed.

    During her mother's ordeal, the deportation trauma would begin to make sense for Lily.

    In her final months in the Bay Area, she had prayed for guidance at Old St. Mary's Church in San Francisco, but had come away with only a vague sense that God had something much better in mind.

    Yet as she spent every day at the hospital by her mother's side -- Jesusa barely survived but eventually returned home -- Lily realized that perhaps God indeed had given her a concrete answer.

    "I wasn't able to do something for my dad," said Lily. "Maybe I'm being given a chance to do something for my mom."

    Delfin Cuevas spent his mornings perusing the local newspapers, which occasionally ran stories and pictures of the family's return to Cebu. Delfin, who would have preferred to stay anonymous, was more interested in the job advertisements.

    But he didn't qualify for any of the posted positions. One ad required that applicants to a car dealership be 24-35 years old. An accounting clerk's position was available to someone "not more than 30." Delfin is 58.

    He missed his daily routine in the United States, waking up at 5 a.m., being at the BART station by 6, arriving at work in San Francisco by 7 and getting home by 6 p.m.

    Delfin had left the Philippines during the economic and political upheaval of 1984. He came to the United States with a visitor's visa and $200. Lily and the kids followed in 1985, but their visas expired after one year, making them illegal.

    In America, Delfin had taken any job available -- gas station attendant, janitor, building maintenance. In 2000, he had landed a position with the state unemployment agency, claiming in his job application that he was eligible to work in the United States.

    Now, 20 years after leaving the Philippines, he found himself back where he started -- without a job. "At my age, they're already retired here," Delfin said.

    At least now he could visit his siblings, whom he hadn't seen in 21 years.

    On July 7, he took an hourlong plane ride to Davao City to reunite with his sisters, who were at the airport to hug him. Delfin was armed with gifts: towels, coffee and plenty of chocolate candy bars.

    The entourage made the 10-mile trip in a rented jeepney to sister Consolatrix's house in a rural subdivision on the outskirts of the city. Banana trees lined the dirt roads.

    Delfin had long been craving kinilaw, raw tuna seasoned in vinegar and onions. And his five sisters did not disappoint.

    The sisters knew that their brother would be there for only about six hours, so they didn't invite anyone else for the feast in the modest wood-framed house. But they made sure to inform other relatives through cell phone text messages -- the national obsession of the Philippines.

    Delfin felt right at home during the visit. After 20 years of living in the shadow of Silicon Valley and the last four working in San Francisco, he remained a country boy at heart. The sisters insisted that Delfin bring his kids for the next visit.

    These days, Delfin's children were giving him a sense of much-needed purpose. His kids could not return to the United States, but that didn't stop Delfin from planning a bright future for them.

    For now, he felt like he was in good shape financially. He would sell the Fremont townhouse and then purchase a house near his mother-in-law's place. He also would send Donna, Dominique and Dale through nursing school at a nearby university starting in November.

    Maybe the three could secure jobs abroad, perhaps in Canada, Australia or Europe. Delfin knew that his children eventually would have to move forward.

    The day she landed in the Philippines, 21-year-old Dominique Cuevas bit her lower lip and held back tears. The stifling humidity prompted her to strip off her American Eagle sweatshirt and reveal the messages that friend Joanna Martinez had written in felt marker on her arms.

    One arm read, "Joanna's best friend." The other, "Precious cargo."

    Dominique carried a green scrapbook that detailed her final six months in America with pictures and handwritten messages from friends. For most of the plane trip, Dominique had clutched the keepsake to her chest as if she were holding on to dear life, her American life.

    At her new home in Cebu, she often talked to Campos, a New Jersey resident who had accompanied the family to the Philippines to help his cousins adjust. Before the Cuevases had left Fremont, Campos told Dominique and her siblings: "It's not going to be anything like California. It's different, which doesn't mean it's bad. It's just the Philippines."

    Dominique asked her cousins about clubbing, school and other things to do. She dabbled in Filipino restaurants and went to the mall to shop and see a late-night showing of "Spider-Man 2." And when she posed for family pictures, the youngest of the Cuevas children flashed a huge, winning smile.

    Then she retreated to her air-conditioned room and e-mailed friends back home about how much she missed them.

    Dominique had rebelled when she learned of the deportation back in Fremont. She had her tongue pierced and got a tattoo on her lower back -- an archaic Filipino script of her nickname, Ging. She had gone clubbing in San Francisco into the wee hours with friends.

    It was as if Dominique had found her independence, but only after it was given an American expiration date.

    To be sure, Independence Day back in the United States did not pass without Dominique's notice. She chatted with friends online and learned about their plans to watch fireworks in Monterey.

    Dominique's new room was full of reminders of her past life: two laptops that kept her connected to friends through e-mails and chat rooms; DVDs of American movies and TV series, such as "Family Guy" and "Nip/Tuck"; and of course, her green scrapbook of memories.

    Dominique, at the suggestion of a friend, tried to think of her exile as if she were just studying abroad.

    A week after her arrival in the Philippines, Dominique approached her father in private, and without a hint of irony, asked, "Can we go home now?"

    On July 8, Dale Cuevas ventured to an isolated beach on nearby Mactan Island with his sisters and his father.

    From the get-go, Dale did his own thing. With a cigarette in his mouth, he climbed almost 10 feet up a coconut tree for a photo op. He rented a jet ski to take a ride in the clear blue water. In between dips in the warm ocean, he stretched out on a chair and relaxed in the shade.

    Dale had worked the hardest to keep his family in the United States. He had tried unsuccessfully to meet with lawmakers to discuss the possibility of a private bill that would have granted his family permanent residence.

    But life had to go on.

    "I'm still young," said Dale, 23, "and I still have a lot to do."

    Minutes after arriving at his grandmother's house on his first day in the Philippines, he had changed into a tank top, shorts and flip-flops. He wanted to explore what was beyond the iron grates of his relatives' property as soon as possible.

    He woke up at 7 every morning -- compared to noon, at the earliest, in Fremont. Unlike his sisters, he tried to communicate in Cebuano, although the locals instantly detected that it was a foreign tongue to him.

    Dale asked one question after another.

    Why was a hotel security guard circling cars while holding a metal pole with a mirror attached at the bottom? (He was checking the vehicles' undersides for bombs.)

    What do the street vendors who weave through traffic sell? (Everything, from candy, to single sticks of gum and cigarettes, to hammocks.)

    Is it in style for men to shave their heads, as it is in the United States? (Yes.)

    Dale was ready to attend nursing school without all the distractions presented by the Bay Area and friends. He wanted to discover his Filipino heritage and was determined to drive as the locals do.

    He reconnected quickly with his cousin Giancarlo, 26, who used to share his Matchbox cars with Dale, even though Dale couldn't remember it. He had left when he was 4.

    The cousins now shared a love for real cars and racing. During Dale's first week in Cebu, Giancarlo took Dale to watch drag races and to drive go-carts.

    Dale was most excited about getting to know his relatives. He was eager to put the faces to the names after hearing about his Filipino family through American cousins. Dale also saw an opportunity to get closer to his parents and sisters.

    "We're eating three, sometimes four meals, together every day," he said. "I don't think all five of us have been at the same table in years."

    On their first Sunday in the Philippines, the Cuevases attended an English-language Mass at the Alliance of Two Hearts Parish in Cebu.

    The new church had iron gates instead of walls on the sides -- to allow air to circulate -- and dress was informal. The family had arrived for the 4 p.m. Mass early, a good thing because every pew was jammed. Late arrivals pulled up plastic stools in the back of the church.

    It had been a long time since the Cuevases had gone to church as a family, but in the Philippines, everyone went to church on Sundays. Delfin, Lily, Donna, Dale and Dominique would all take communion.

    Father Louie Punzalan was unaware of the family's presence at the Mass, but he seemed to be speaking specifically to the Cuevases during his sermon.

    He urged the congregation to travel lightly through life, to "bring only that which is essential." The statement drew a few chuckles from the Cuevases, who had packed most of their American belongings in a 40-foot freight trailer that they had shipped by sea to the Philippines.

    The promise of America was now in the Cuevases' past, replaced by the uncertainty of their future in the Philippines. But Father Punzalan offered comfort during his sermon's conclusion:

    "We have to learn to trust in God. Nobody feeds the birds in the sky, nobody waters the plants on the ground. But our Father takes care of them. Your Father will take care of you."

    Epilogue

    The Cuevas family recently bought a three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom house within walking distance of their relatives' home in Cebu.

    Lily spends most days taking care of her mother.

    Delfin continues to search for a job.

    Donna, Dale and Dominique are preparing for nursing school in November. They still chat online regularly with their friends in the United States.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Following the story
    Chronicle reporter Cicero Estrella and photographer Kim Komenich followed the Cuevas family to the Philippines after the family was deported from the Bay Area.

    Comment


    • #3
      Of course you don't bother or even care to bother about the plight of the TRUE victim here; the defrauded American. You portray the immigrant as a victim of the evil system and curse the American as some vengeful unimportant slob. That was a human being that was defrauded and was a victim of a vicious and horrible crime. Marriage fraud is a crime far worse than rape which is considered one of the most heinous crimes.

      That human being lost thousands, maybe tens of thousands of dollars. That human being was emotionally destroyed and paralyzed for years because he was so betrayed and devastated. Maybe the foreigner even made false allegations of abuse and maybe even got the poor human being thrown in jail for the **** of it. He most certainly cried for weeks at night. He probably lost many months of sleep. Maybe he lost a job. Certainly he spent a lot of time with therapists and psychologists. He probably took antidepressants which didn't work. He finally resigned to the fact that there was nothing he could do. Maybe he even contemplated suicide. For what ? Why ? Because he was in love did he deserved to be treated that way ? Does an American deserve to be defrauded and hurt so that someone can get a green card ?

      It is very rare and difficult to get deported and the burden of proof is extremely high. So this person clearly committed marriage fraud and broke not only the laws of this country, but the heart of a good human being. You have no sympathy for a decent human being. I have no sympathy for a liar, a cheater and a fraud.

      Comment


      • #4
        Mike,

        I just highlited a story. I haven't even mentioned which side of the coin I choose.
        I am pro immigration , but I believe that a country has a right toenact its immigration laws in whichever ways it sees neccessary. I got no problem with that. **** my own country kenya does that.
        What I am asking is use discretion. Law enforcement uses dicretion alot, in their daily operations. In this case here probably they would have deported the parents but left the younger folks to stay here.

        I think even the staunchest conservative in congress has occasionally sympathised with the cases of kids brought to us as toddlers and being deported in later years say early 20's or late *****. Such people are simply Americans.
        American is not just being born here and having a birth certificate. American is living one's life feeling and believing in American principles and also believing in belonging to the land and willing to die for it.

        That I can see in younger immigrants more so than in their parents who frequently can't even speak english anyway. If Immigration can issue SNITCH visas I don't see why they cannot use their discretion to allow some of these unfortunate people to continue residing in America. These are people who WILL PRODUCE alot of benefits for america. Nurses... need I say more?

        Another case in point I read the other day that a south african widow in Washington state is being deported after her husband of less than two years died. How cruel is that? All of a sudden because on'e spouse dies , it means that one has no real justification being here? Than why even grant her a resident status in the first place anyway? Who ever the ins official was that determined that is a very cold blooded person that needs not hold that office.

        Deportation is a very controversial topic here in the us, but it need not be.
        Emphasis should be in deporting the undesirables first and then if a PRESSING need occurs go for the minor offenders. And we shouldn't just blindly deport everyone, we should weigh and see who can be of use to us.

        An immigration judge rescinded the deportation of a very bright Indian citizen 5 years ago when the CEO'S of Intel, IBM, Computer Associates, Microsoft, and presidents of MIT, Berkely Universities , as well as the big people in the scientific world here in America, petitioned his waiver demonstarting how immensely valuable he was to the scientific progress here in the usa. He is a holder of 24 patents in different kinds of scientific research and technology. He attained his phd at age 23, and is known throughout the research world. Israel and Germany had wooed him had he been deported.
        Why did the INS want to deport him? Because he had forgotten to apply for an extension of his status here when his visa ran out. He travelled to switzerland and when he came back the BRIGHT ins officials at the POE detained him and were happily speeding up the process to deport him ignoring due process, no phone calls, or attorneys.

        Now do you consider such people undesirables? Should we deport them all then? **** why don't we deport the whole Asian community that features heavily in Medical technology and research field here in the usa. Afterall our own corn -fed american born and raised kids will fill their places and will make up for patents and invetions and ideas acquired by other friendlier countries. mAYBE THAT'S WHAT WE NEED TO DO.

        Just round us all up and deport us, so we can stop breathing the air you are breathing and being an eyesore before your sight.

        God bless America ...AND THE REST OF THE WORLD TOO, THEY REALLY NEED THE BLESSING!

        Comment


        • #5
          johndoe ... I wonder what johndoe means other than mr x.

          Kenyan means a person from kenya, or something related to or associated with the country of kenya.

          The name kenya itself is derived from a bantu language. It is made from the words kere and Nyaga both of which refered to the mountain diety that the people used to worship. Hint: Mt Kenya is also called Mt. Kirinyaga or kerenyaga.
          The people around it used to worship it thousands of years ago.

          comprende?

          Comment


          • #6
            11 million mexicans live here illegaly, and they go after a filipino family who's been here law-abidingly for 10 years? WTF?

            boy are they gonna feel like idiots when an amnesty gets approved next year.

            they shoudl've just gone into hiding like the typical wetback.

            -= nav =-

            Comment


            • #7
              Moondin,

              The wetback slur is kinda mean don't you think so? But what the f?

              Anyway, what makes you think an amnesty is pending next year? I highly doubt it. The way things are so messed up in this country now, GW cannot offer amnesty now or after elections coz if he does it now, he is out of office courtesy of americans already sick of him and who also don't support amnesty, and if he wins the elections, then there won't be any incentive for him to offer the amnesty?

              The amnesty would have been a nice political amunition he could have used to get the spanish vote, but people are so divided and polarized that no one can directly and openly pander to the illegal alien stuff to woo spanish voters.

              ... Yeah I agree with you though that the filipinos may feel bad about their case, why they even bothered tolegalize themselves.

              Most illegals I Know tell me they won't bother trying to become legal coz Immigration is impossible to deal with and if they been surviving before they will survive onwards living in the shadows. you know like they say, if it ain't broke don't fix it!

              Comment


              • #8
                Quoting Michael:

                "Marriage fraud is a crime far worse than rape"

                Typical male point of view. You might get a different opinion from a woman.

                Both are horrible experiences, no doubt.

                If I had to choose, I'd take marriage fraud over rape anyday.

                With marriage, you have a CHOICE. With rape, you don't.

                Do not tell me that you did not consider you could be frauded before you got married? I know I worried about it, still do. I still have to wait and see if I get dumped after hubby gets his permanent green card.

                If he does dump me, all I can say is, it was my own stupidity. I'd have no one to blame but myself.
                Sweet Madame Belu

                Comment


                • #9
                  "If I had to choose, I'd take marriage fraud over rape anyday. With marriage, you have a CHOICE. With rape, you don't." - Jo

                  Rape is not a bad thing at all. I know many women who live in NYC that were never raped. That's because they didn't get drunk, put on a mini skirt and heels and go to a football team member's hotel at 3 in the morning wanting to "talk" ! Rape can be a big ego boost also. Think about it; the guy just HAD to have you ! That's pretty cool. I would rather have a woman rape me than use me for a green card.
                  The vast vast majority 99 % of rape cases where the victim and alleged attacker are of the same race are frauds.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    To kenyan,

                    its a waste of time and efforts. there are some people who only see the maxican as illegals( no matter how productive thay are). in their eye if you are mexican, you must be illegal.. and if you are illegal... you are not human. if you born in US in animal breed, DOG, pig, goat.. snake.. etc.. you are human. you are better then all illegals.. visa overstayers. or even Green card holders.. that the way it works here so don't waste your time.

                    Guy who came here on visa, overstay, married to USC have kids and raising his kids paying more taxes then millions of US citizens, his marriage is sham in the USCIS eyes, and can be deported if He don't have resources to fight, or he have resources but met with some US citizen Born Attorney who know nothing about the Law but to **** the immigrant, because they are the easier pray, they don't know laws, mostly don't even come forward to confront his own lawyer because of the the fear of deportation and loosing everything they worked for.

                    IF you want exapmles and proof, I have many, where his own attorney made them deported to protect his own license of practice.

                    Don't waste your time here.
                    Its a discussion, not a legal advise..

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Quoting Michael Taliban:

                      "That's because they didn't get drunk, put on a mini skirt and heels and go to a football team member's hotel at 3 in the morning wanting to "talk" !

                      Typical male chauvanist response. This is why women in Afghanistan have to wear the burka. Even the site of a woman's wrist or ankle will set a man off over there.

                      "Rape can be a big ego boost also. Think about it; the guy just HAD to have you ! That's pretty cool."

                      What more can one expect from one who is attracted to 5 year olds?

                      When you get out of prison, let us know how you enjoyed it and got your ego boosted.
                      Formerly Josephine Schmo

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        He should NEVER be allowed to pass bar! Sheesh.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Mohan,
                          As usual, you made a very interesting point which actually highlights the reality.

                          Nevertheless, this country needs immigrants. So regardless of circumstances, the flow of immigrant will prevail.

                          Take care!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            He shouldn't be allowed to walk the streets.
                            Formerly Josephine Schmo

                            Comment



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