Filipino workers in Saipan get legal help

by Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Dec 26 2011 12:20 PM | Updated as of Dec 26 2011 11:56 PM

The tough economy has taken a toll on thousands of Filipino workers in Saipan, the capital of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands or CNMI in the Pacific. Workers who lost their jobs are now in danger of being deported back to the Philippines.

The workers have lived and worked in CNMI, a Commonwealth of the United States. for years. Many have children who are now American citizens.

But they are running out of options. There are only a few immigration lawyers in the area and many of these Filipinos cannot afford their rates, usually hundreds of dollars per hour.

The Philippine Consulate said there are no funds to help the Filipinos with their immigration defense.

But the group U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance took on the responsibility to help these Filipinos facing deportation in Saipan.

For months now, the group has been holding teleconferences with the Filipino workers to let them know how they can be helped.

Atty. Ted Laguatan, an immigration attorney and the legal counsel of the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance, recently held an immigration forum with about 130 Filipino workers in Saipan.

The lawyer said there is hope for these workers.

“Those who have U.S. citizen children can file a parole visa, that’s given by immigration officials on a yearly basis. When the child turns 21, the U.S. citizen child can petition the parents. They also just cannot be deported without due process and without a hearing before an immigration judge," he said.

Laguatan encourages more Filipino lawyers to volunteer their time for Filipino workers in Saipan who are in desperate need of help.