[singlepic=76,300,199,left]STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania – A prominent Filipino doctor and his wife are facing deportation because of misstatements about their marital status in their US visa application in Manila 27 years ago.
Dr. Pedro Servano, 54, is a prominent family doctor who chose to practice in an underserved area of central Pennsylvania and his wife, Salvacion, 51, runs a grocery store and bakery. They have four children two of whom are in college and the other two in high school.
The community Nov. 18 held an evening vigil here to express their support for the Servanos and to protest the order of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency for them to report to an immigration facility in Allentown after Thanksgiving Day for the start of deportation proceedings. This was later deferred to Monday, Nov. 26. Their attorney, Gregg Cotler, is devising a flurry of last-ditch legal and political appeals to allow them to remain in Selinsgrove, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia.
Michael Gilhooly, spokesman of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), said that while the Servanos wont be detained or deported immediately, the administrative process for deportation will begin.
A deadline on when the Servanos must leave the country has not been set, Cotler said.
The Patriot News in Pennsylvania recently said in an editorial that while U.S. borders are so porous as to permit millions to enter the country illegally, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has wasted 17 years of staff time and who knows how much in legal fees trying to deport a Selinsgrove physician and his wife because they applied for visas as singles but married before emigrating from the Philippines in the 1980s. This case cries out for further review by authorities unafraid to exercise common sense, the editorial said.
The Servanods difficulties can be traced back to 1978 when, while both were single, their mothers applied for visas for them to come to the United States. While their visa applications were pending, the two married in the Philippines in 1980. Two years later, Salvacions visa was granted and she left the country. Pedro followed in 1984 after getting his visa, and the couple moved to Philadelphia.
Everything went smoothly until the Servanos applied for US citizenship while living in San Diego in 1990. That was when an immigration official noticed during an interview that their visa application listed them as single. They were accused of lying and misrepresenting their marital status, and the deportation process began, Cotler said.
I guess its an honest mistake, Salvacion said. Its not premeditated. (In the Philippines, some applicants who have married while their visa applications were pending, did so because a change of status would further delay the approval of pending visa applications.)
The Servanos went about their lives as they filed appeals. They moved back to Philadelphia in 1992 before settling in Selinsgrove three years later. Pedro works at Geisinger Medical Group in Selinsgrove, where he has about 2,000 patients.
Several years ago, the Servanos bought and renovated two properties in nearby Sunbury. Salvacion recently opened a small grocery store there, selling Asian goods and baked items.
They had an error on their visas when they first came here, said Terry Specht, Sunburys city clerk, who frequents the store. Its ridiculous to think they would lie about that.”
But their appeals have been unsuccessful and appear to have run their course.
The turned to Cotler after receiving notice earlier this month that they had to report to the immigration enforcement office.
It was a surprise to us, Pedro Servano said. After that, it was as if a ton of bricks had fallen on our family.”
ICE said the Servandos were given due process through the US immigration court System and they have already exhausted their appeals.
Cotlers legal team is considering emergency appeals in court and directly to the US attorney generals office.
Letters of support to the government have poured in from local dignitaries, Servanos patients and even someone from the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE.
I fervently believe in the ICE mission. However, the Servanos did not sneak into this country illegally, they have broken no laws, and they have not been a burden to the economy. They pose no threat,” DHS counterterrorism operative Bill Schweigart wrote in a letter obtained by The Daily Item of Sunbury. I cannot fathom how deporting the Servanos fulfills any portion of the ICE mission. In fact, I would argue the action runs counter to it.”
Cotler said the couple understands the governments position, but would simply like another chance to tell their story.
But this is not just a case of the need for immigration reform and a path to legalization. Its a reminder of the need for Congress if it enacts such reform to avoid policies that require people like the Servanos to go to the back of the line and return to their home countries and wait years and pay substantial fees in order to return.