In 1990, a 12-year-old boy name Mark came to the United States with his family. They had fled the Philippines after his father, a political candidate, was shot and injured just outside their home.
In 1998, U.S. immigration officials discovered that the family had overstayed their visas and ordered them deported. Like many DREAMers, Mark was not eager to give up his life in the U.S. and return to a nation fraught with political violence. He decided to remain here.
He was living quite an impressive life in the States. Valedictorian of his high school, he went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard University in 2001. After that, he earned his Master’s degree in political science from UC San Diego, where he focused on exposing the corruption that was crippling his home country.
In 2010, Mark was pursuing his Ph.D., still focusing on Philippine government corruption. Then, ICE caught and detained him. That removal order from 1998 was still valid.
Mark had left the Philippines the son of a man who had been targeted for political violence. Now, 25 years later, he was slated to return as the conspicuous critic of a violent regime.
Even more frightening, the level of political violence in the Philippines had dramatically increased in the meantime. In light of the increased risk that Mark would personally be targeted by the Philippine government, he asked the Board of Immigration Appeals to reopen his case.
Mark and his attorney documented the surge in violence using news articles and even a report from the Senate Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs. The BIA refused to reopen his case and rejected his motion for reconsideration as untimely — essentially saying he should have asked back in 1998.
It seemed hopeless, but the Ninth Circuit saw the injustice about to occur. It halted Mark’s deportation and ordered the case reopened, finding that the BIA abused its discretion when it refused to reconsider the situation in light of new evidence.
That evidence of rampant “political violence and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, especially against those who criticize governmental corruption” like Mark. “These changes in [his] personal circumstances made the increased political violence against critics of the government in the Philippines relevant to him,” wrote the court.
Here, the Ninth Circuit’s order served to keep a decent, hardworking American from being ordered to live in a country he hasn’t seen in decades, and where he is a potential target of political violence. Each and every immigrant deserves such thoughtful consideration of their situation.