Filipino deportee recalls his arrest and removal by ICE | Inquirer

Filipino deportee recalls his arrest and removal by ICE


Fr. John Brannigan of St. Columban Church in Los Angeles urges members of immigrant communities to stay united and vigilant in the face of ramped up ICE operations. Looking on is PWC Executive Director Aquilina Versoza. INQUIRER/Eric Licas

LOS ANGELES — Rey Galleon, a formerly undocumented California resident, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents lied in order to convince him to buy a plane ticket to the Philippines and deport himself last March 17.

Just a few weeks ago, the father of two American children had returned home after dropping his nine-year-old daughter off at school when he noticed what turned out to be ICE agents waiting in the parking garage of his apartment complex. He managed to alert his wife so that she could escape detainment before he was handcuffed and taken into custody.

Galleon described his interactions with federal agents and gave an update on his current circumstances via Skype during a rally held by the Pilipino Workers’ Center (PWC) to generate awareness of his case on Saturday, April 1 in Los Angeles.

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During the videoconference, Galleon said he had asked to have a lawyer present prior to his removal from the country. However, ICE agents allegedly told him he didn’t have a right to confer with an attorney because he was formerly a shipping vessel crewman who had jumped ship in order to live in United States.

“Tapos tinanong ko sila bakit ako nyo hinuhuli. Wala naman akong criminal record (I also asked why they targeted me. I have no criminal record),” said Galleon. “Sabi nila dahil crewmember ako, ka level ko ang criminal (They said I was on the same level as a criminal because I was a [former] crewmember).”


Representatives of the Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles rehearse before performing during a rally held on Saturday, April 1 in support of Rey Galleon, an undocumented Filipino immigrant who was detained by ICE and deported on March 17. INQUIRER/Eric Licas

Galleon said he was given a choice between paying for his own flight back to the Philippines or federal detention. He added that he was misinformed and intimidated by ICE into separating from his wife and children and deporting himself.


If Galleon had chosen to remain in the U.S. under ICE custody, advocacy groups like the PWC might have been able to release him on bond and build a defense against his removal.

Now that he is in the Philippines, the PWC is exploring methods to effect his return to the United States. However, the group’s Executive Director, Aquilina Versoza, said during Saturday’s rally that advocates were still unsure exactly what form those efforts would take.

Every person in the U.S. has the right to a fair trial and legal counsel regardless of their residency status, according to supporters of immigrants’ rights like PWC, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON),  and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ). Versoza said federal agents’ alleged misrepresentation of immigration law violated Galleon’s constitutional rights.


WATCH: Solidarity with Filipino deportee. INQUIRER/Eric Licas

On Saturday, she and NDLON Organizer David Abud confirmed reports that ICE agents, emboldened by the Trump administration’s policies on immigration, have utilized increasingly misleading tactics in order to build cases and draw incriminating testimony from suspected undocumented immigrants.

Father John Brannigan of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said ICE’s recent behavior is indicative of a greater pattern of deception from the Trump administration.

“The rumors are quite close to the truth,” said Fr. John Brannigan, a Catholic priest who had served in the Philippines during the period of martial law the ‘70s and ‘80s. “As an American, that’s a very hard thing to admit … that their government is telling lies,”

The Trump administration has insisted that dangerous criminals would be the focus of augmented immigration enforcement operations. However, Brannigan said the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles’s has verified reports that ICE has been deporting without due process otherwise law abiding undocumented residents like Galleon.


Supporters of immigrant rights and pledge their support for Rey Galleon, an undocumented Filipino immigrant who was apprehended by ICE agents on March 17 and allegedly denied access to legal counsel before his departure from the United States. INQUIRER/Eric Licas

The pastor urged all members of immigrant communities to immediately report news of ICE raids to the Archdiocese’s newly formed office of Immigration Affairs and other agencies resisting ramped up enforcement operations.

Brannigan, Versoza and Abud also encouraged people to understand their constitutional rights so that they would be ready to assert them if they were confronted by federal agents.

Brannigan added that communities must band together, as they did during the EDSA revolution, to effect change.

“One of the things we learned early on during the days of martial law in Negros is that people need each other,” said Brannigan. “If people get together that stops the government. That’s how EDSA succeeded.”

Meanwhile, facing an uncertain future in the America, Galleon’s family decided to reunite with him in Zamboanga, Philippines. With help from the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, they flew overseas about a week after his deportation.

Galleon said his children were having some difficulty adjusting to life in a country they had never been to before. However, he said that he was grateful to have the support of his extended family in the Philippines, and members of the Fil-Am community in Southern California.

Those interested in somehow aiding the Galleons should get in touch with the PWC. More information regarding the rights people may assert when questioned by ICE or any other law enforcement agency can be found at AAAJ-Los Angeles’s website at

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TAGS: Filipino deportee, immigration, Pilipino Workers Center, Rey Galleon
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