After seven years of living in the US as an undocumented immigrant, Rey Galleon's life in the country came to an abrupt end on March 17.
The former crewman was the first known undocumented Filipino in Southern California arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since President Donald Trump took office.
Galleon had just dropped off his 9-year-old at school when he found people in his apartment complex asking neighbors where he and his wife were.
He spoke to them, unknowing that they were immigration agents set out to arrest him.
As officers let him go inside to change clothes, he alerted his wife, who was also in the country illegally, to sneak out a backdoor with one of their children.
From his home, ICE took him to the Homeland Security Office in Long Beach with an ultimatum.
“Pinapili nila ako kung uuwi ba ako or gusto ma detain,” he said.
He was then escorted to Los Angeles International Airport and by 10 p.m. he was on a Philippine-bound plane on a ticket that he paid for himself. It was only at this time that he was able to speak to his wife.
Galleon, who used to be a member of the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), reached out to the group as he arrived in the Philippines.
PWC said there would have been a different outcome if he was more informed. With two US citizen children and no criminal record, they said he may have had a chance to fight off the deportation orders.
ICE agents intentionally intimidate their targets and never tell them their rights, PWC said.
“ICE, if you interact with them, are trying to get you to sign your own voluntary departure. He was asking for legal assistance and they were ignoring that and in the end they gave him false options," said Aqui Soriano Versoza of the Pilipino Workers Center.
"There was a bond process. If he was able to connect to legal services like here at PWC, we could've galvanized legal support and community support so that he could've gotten out on bond,” she added.
With nowhere to go, Galleon's wife and children followed him home to Zamboanga about a week later.
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