Francisco Muña Tydingco and his wife, Lili Zhang Tydingco, who were both convicted of harboring an illegal minor, are not “coyotes” who are in the business of smuggling aliens across borders, according to their defense lawyer.
Bruce Berline, counsel for Lili Tydingco, said the Tydingcos merely tried to do a family friend a favor.
Berline said the openness of the Tydingco couple’s actions—declaring their intent upon arrival at the Saipan airport, filing the guardianship documents with the CNMI Recorder’s Office, and enrolling the child in public school—show that their offense is not like those normally contemplated by federal statute and by the sentencing guidelines.
In Lili Tydingco’s case, Berline recommended a sentence of three years probation, saying it is sufficient to effectuate the purposes of sentencing.
He said Lili Tydingco has a long history of employment; she is the primary caretaker and breadwinner for her family, including an infant child; she has no criminal history; she is facing severe consequences in the form of possible deportation; and her innocent children are facing the possibility of losing one or both parents for a significant period of time.
“Under these circumstances, a variance is warranted and justified,” Berline said.
The Tydingco couple would be sentenced on Nov. 30 at 1:30pm.
Last June, a federal jury found the Tydingco couple guilty of one count of harboring an alien. That carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
Berline said Lili Tydingco has been continuously employed since her arrival on Saipan 20 years ago. He said she is self-reliant, has always worked to take care of herself and her family, has no criminal history, and does not use drugs or drink alcohol.
Lili Tydingco met Francisco Tydingco on Saipan in 2006 and got married that same year. They now have three children, ages 7 and 6 years old and about 18 months.
Berline said Lili Tydingco is the breadwinner for the family as Francisco Tydingco does not work and has not had a job for quite some time.
The lawyer said Lili Tydingco takes care of most of work at home: cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children.
Berline said Lili Tydingco has lost several jobs as a result of media attention to this case.
He said the work that Lili Tydincgo has been able to find is low-paying and labor intensive as opposed to her previous job working at DFS and Century Tours.
As a result of Lili Tydingco’s job changes, Berline said, the family has struggled to pay for essentials.
“The stress of an uncertain future coupled with dire present circumstances has taken a significant toll on Lili Tydingco and regularly keeps her awake at night,” Berline said.
While of offense of harboring an illegal alien can be quite serious in some circumstances, Berline said the circumstances of Lili Tydingco’s offense warrant a much lower sentence.
In this case, Berline pointed out, Lili Tydingco was provided with documents making her and Mr. Tydingco the legal guardians of the child by the minor’s parents for the purpose of bringing her to Saipan to go to school and learn to speak English.
Berline noted that the child’s parents had been to Saipan before and her sibling was born on Saipan, so the trip was not to a particularly foreign or unknown place.
The Tydingcos traveled to China, where they met with the child’s parents and the child traveled with them back to Saipan.
The child was enrolled in public school and the guardianship documents were filed with the Commonwealth Recorder’s Office.
Here, Berline said, there was no violence and no dangerous or abusive conditions.