Judge stays removal of Filipino mother of 2 US citizen children


U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has stayed pending further court’s order the removal from the U.S. or the CNMI of Amalia Abo Guanlao, a Filipino mother who has been in the CNMI for 22 years now and has two U.S. citizen children.

Guanlao filed a court action in her last-ditch effort to stop being separated from her family as she was ordered deported last Wednesday early morning. Guanlao, through counsel Stephen Woodruff, filed last Tuesday a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

In a written order issued on Thursday, Manglona ruled she finds that the court has jurisdiction over Guanlao’s petition based on the facts currently before the court, and that she will also grant her request for an emergency order staying removal while the court hears the petition on the merits.

Manglona said she is mindful of the sensitive nature of these proceedings and will expedite the process.

Manglona discharged her previous order to show cause and set a status conference for last Friday at 3pm to address Guanlao’s petition and to set a schedule, if appropriate.

The judge said nothing in her order shall foreclose respondents from filing a motion to dismiss this case or vacate this order for lack of jurisdiction. She said the respondents shall have an opportunity to be heard.

In Guanlao’s petition, named as respondents are Immigration and Customs Enforcement supervisory detention and deportation officer Gerald Zedde, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Enforcement and Removal Operations acting supervisor M. Samaniego, and ICE immigration officer G. Andersen.

In the petition, Woodruff requested the court to determine the legality of her continued detention and intended removal from the United States or the CNMI. Woodruff asked the court to immediately order a stay of Guanlao’s removal during the pendency of this case as her removal would result in irreparable harm to her and her two U.S. citizen children.

With the filing of the petition, Manglona issued an order last Wednesday, directing Guanlao, through counsel Woodruff, to appear in court and show cause why this matter should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Manglona also ordered Woodruff to be prepared to discuss whether the petition is rendered moot if Guanlao has been removed from U.S.

At the order to show cause hearing last Wednesday at 4pm, Manglona asked Woodruff if his client, Guanlao, was removed from the U.S.

Woodruff told the court that Guanlao decided on her own to remain on Saipan.

After listening to Woodruff’s arguments, Manglona noted that Woodruff has not made a sufficient showing that the court has jurisdiction. She said she will issue a written decision.

In her written order issued on the same day, Wednesday, Manglona said Guanlao sought review of the “legality of her continued detention and intended removal,” as well as an order staying her removal during the pendency of these proceedings.

Manglona said because district courts were stripped of jurisdiction to hear cases attacking orders of removal by the REAL ID Act, the court issued an order to show cause why the petition should not be dismissed.

Manglona said although much of the petition was indeed devoted to attacking the removal order, some claims strike at independent issues.

In particular, the judge said, she finds that the court has jurisdiction to consider the petition based on Guanlao’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims.

Manglona said as the Ninth Circuit held in Singh vs. Gonzales case, a “narrow claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with a post-administrative filing an appeal with the court of appeals does not require review of an order of removal,” and therefore “falls outside the jurisdiction-stripping provisions of the REAL ID Act.”

In Guanlao’s preliminary response, Woodruff said the matter is not moot as Guanlao did not present herself to the airport Wednesday morning as directed pursuant to the order of supervision and is still on Saipan.

Accordingly, Woodruff said, petitioner is in imminent jeopardy of arrest and being held in continuing physical custody until removed from the U.S.

“Arrest, physical detention, and actual removal from the United States will result in irreparable harm not only to petitioner but also to her U.S. citizen children, who not only were born on Saipan but have spent their entire life here,” he said.

Woodruff said Guanlao has not asked the court to make any ruling at all with respect to the removal order itself.

To the contrary, he said, petitioner principally seeks to vindicate specific rights given her by Congress in

Title VII of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act as an alien lawfully present in the CNMI prior to Nov. 28, 2009.

According to the petition, Guanlao is married to another Filipino, Reynaldo M. Guanlao, who holds valid CW-1 immigration status.

The couple has two U.S. citizen children, born on Saipan. Mrs. Guanlao has been a resident of the CNMI for 22 years. She was placed in removal proceedings by the Department of Homeland Security in March 2011.

Woodruff said Gerald Zedde, as U.S. Department of Homeland Security Saipan Supervisory Detention and Deportation Officer for detention and removal operations, signed the notice to appear issued to Guanlao on March 25, 2011.

Woodruff said Samaniego is an ICE official who signed the order of supervision issued to Guanlao on May 8, 2016.

He said G. Andersen is the ICE deportation officer who has ordered Guanlao to be at the airport at 2am Wednesday, June 22, for removal from the U.S.

Woodruff said if petitioner does not so appear and depart as ordered, she will be hunted down, arrested, and held in detention until removed from the U.S.

Guanlao, along with 120 other former employees, were plaintiffs in a civil action against La Mode Inc. in federal court.

Woodruff said Guanlao’s claim against La Mode was not extinguished until June 9, 2011, when the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice by stipulation of the parties in accord with a confidential settlement agreement.

Accordingly, Woodruff said, Guanlao was “lawfully present in the Commonwealth pursuant to the immigration laws of the Commonwealth on the transition program effective date [Nov. 28, 2009]” and thus was expressly protected by Congress from removal at least until June 8, 2011.

Woodruff said notwithstanding the explicit shield removal in the CNRA, Guanlao was placed in removal proceedings by DHS on March 15, 2011.

Woodruff said that, in 2012, Asia Adventure Corp. petitioned for CW-1 status for Guanlao, but it was ultimately denied based on error in the interpretation and application of the law.

In September 2012, Woodruff said Guanlao applied for CW-2 status, which was ultimately denied, again as a result of error in USCIS understanding and application of the law.

Guanlao was represented in the removal proceedings by two attorneys. She was granted many continuances to allow various applications to be processed by USCIS.

On Aug. 24, 2013, Guanlao made a third application for parole-in-place to USCIS. That request was received at the Guam Field Office on Aug. 29, 2013, and denied on Sept. 24, 2013, after Guanlao had already been ordered removed.

On Sept. 10, 2013, the immigration judge ordered Guanlao removed.

Guanlao timely appealed the decision of the immigration judge to the Board of Immigration Appeals with the assistance of another lawyer, Alice Rae.

Woodruff said on appeal, Rae failed to point out the ineffective assistance of former counsel, failed to challenge the jurisdiction to institute removal proceedings, among other things.

On May 14, 2015, the BIA denied remand and dismissed the appeal.

On March 24, 2015, while Guanlao’s appeal was pending with the BIA, QQ Car Rental petitioned for CW-1 status for her.

Woodruff said the petition was ultimately denied, based on similar error in the interpretation and application of law.

Rae sent to the BIA a notice an attempted motion to reopen claiming ineffective assistance of counsel, but the BIA rejected the motion on account of its filing on an appeal form.

In November 2015, a lawyer filed motions to reopen and for stay of removal with the BIA.

On March 2, 2016, the BIA denied the motions.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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