The U.S. Immigration Court on Saipan yesterday granted a request for voluntary departure from the CNMI to Epidio A. Macaraeg, a 60-year-old Filipino maintenance worker who has been on Saipan for 26 years and has been in detention for two months while facing removal proceedings for being jobless.
Judge Clarence Wagner ordered Macaraeg to depart the CNMI no later than Dec. 28, 2011.
Wagner said if Macaraeg’s “source” is unable to buy a plane ticket, the voluntary departure order will be automatically converted into a removal order.
“You will not be required to post a voluntary deportation bond. But you will remain in custody until you depart,” the judge told Macaraeg.
Macaraeg was in the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the hearing. He appeared at the proceeding through a video conference. A translator assisted him throughout the hearing.
Attorney Janet King, counsel for Macaraeg, appeared in court along with Patricia Beattie, assistant chief counsel for the Department of Homeland Security.
In answering to the judge’s questions, Macaraeg said he has no family in the CNMI and also has no money to purchase a plane ticket to return to the Philippines.
The maintenance worker asked the court to give him a chance to stay in the CNMI so he could continue to work.
Macaraeg said it is Rene Reyes, founding president of the Marianas Advocates for Humanitarian Affairs Ltd. or MAHAL, who is helping him in his case.
Wagner said based on the information Macaraeg is not qualified for any relief.
King explained to the court that Macaraeg has a potential employer.
King requested to instead grant a voluntary departure to the respondent so he could possibly come back to the CNMI.
Wagner, however, stated that he can’t grant voluntary departure if the respondent has no money to buy his plane ticket.
King said she is not sure whether the prospective employer or the Philippine Consulate will purchase the plane ticket for Macaraeg.
Wagner then ruled that under the circumstances he will grant voluntary departure to the respondent.
After the hearing, an ICE agent assisted Macaraeg as he could hardly walk due to arthritis that reportedly has worsened due to a very cold condition inside his detention cell at the Department of Corrections.
ICE agents arrested Macaraeg last October when he did not appear at his immigration hearing due to confusion about his hearing date as it was handwritten.
The worker was supposed to be deported on Nov. 7, but Reyes was able to provide him with counsel, who then filed an emergency motion to reopen proceedings and rescind the order of removal entered on Oct. 4, 2011.
Among the grounds cited for removal was that Macaraeg is jobless, has no immigration status, and has no umbrella permit.
MAHAL president Reyes said Macaraeg is among the 628 aliens who were granted conditional umbrella permits.