PH citizen takes court action to stop removal order

Filipina is mother to 2 US citizen children

A Filipino mother, who has been in the CNMI for 22 years now and has two U.S. citizen children, has filed a court action in federal court in her last-ditch effort to stop being separated from her family as she was ordered deported early yesterday morning.

Amalia Abo Guanlao, through counsel Stephen Woodruff, filed on Tuesday a petition for writ of habeas corpus before the U.S. District Court for the NMI.

In Guanlao’s 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 yesterday, 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 the U.S.

Manglona heard the order to show cause yesterday at 4pm. After listening to Woodruff’s arguments, Manglona noted that Woodruff has not presented case law as to the issue of the court’s jurisdiction.

The judge also pointed out, among other things, that she is sympathetic to a mother being separated from her children, but that Guanlao’s immigration case did not just pop up two days ago, but actually began in 2011.

Manglona said she will issue a written order.

In the order to show cause, Manglona declined to issue an order staying removal proceedings.

“Indeed, it appears that the court lacks jurisdiction to issue such an order or to grant any relief to Guanlao at all,” she said.

The judge said the Immigration and Nationality Act significantly limits the scope of district court judicial review of orders of removal.

Manglona, however, provided Guanlao, through Woodruff, an opportunity to argue why jurisdiction exists before dismissing the matter.

In Guanlao’s preliminary response, Woodruff said the matter is not moot as Guanlao did not present herself to the airport yesterday 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 lives 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 a 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 M. Samaniego is an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official who signed the order of supervision issued to Guanlao on May 8, 2016.

He said G. Andersenis is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation officer who has ordered Guanlao to be at the airport at 2am yesterday, 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.

Woodruff said accordingly, Guanlao is now presently in the constructive custody of ICE.

Woodruff said that on Nov. 28, 2009, a transition to federal control of immigration in the CNMI began and that on Nov. 27, 2009, petitioner was lawfully present in the CNMI pursuant to the immigration laws of the CNMI.

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

Under Commonwealth law, Woodruff said, the pendency of this civil action gave Guanlao a legal right to live and work in the CNMI until final adjudication of the case.

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 Guanlao had been granted an “umbrella permit” by order of the CNMI Office of the Attorney General prior to Nov. 28, 2009.

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

On June 6, 2010, prior to being placed in removal proceedings, petitioner prepared a letter request to USCIS for parole-in-place based on the ongoing litigation and her entitlement to an “umbrella permit” despite not having a document specifically so denominated.

This request was received by the USCIS Guam Field Office on June 15, 2010. Over a year later—after petitioner had been placed in removal proceedings—USCIS on Sept. 21, 2011, denied petitioner’s request for parole-in-place based on an error of law—a conclusion that petitioner was not in lawful status on Nov. 27, 2009.

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 May 2011, before USCIS had denied the first request for parole in place, petitioner again, by and through attorney Joe Hill, requested parole in place from the Guam Field Office.

Guanlao was subsequently served with an undated notice purporting to revoke her parole.

This notice, Woodruff said, contained a number of statements of questionable validity and purpose.

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.

Woodruff said Guanlao’s situation is precisely the kind of case that screams for an exercise of discretion, yet DHS and the immigration judge refused to even engage in an exercise of discretion.

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

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