Stockton woman avoids deportation in San Francisco

June 13, 2013 11:14:08 AM PDT
An Army veteran has won a fight to keep his wife and child from being deported this Father's Day.

Wednesday morning, the Stockton man and his family were at the center of a protest in front of San Francisco's immigration office making an emotional plea.

It was a family fight that brought the police to the Thad Schmierer's Stockton apartment last month. Police arrested his wife Karla and because she was in the country illegally, they held her for eight days waiting for immigration officers to question her.

"It was the first time I was separated from my son," said Karla Gaerlan.

Outside the San Francisco immigration office, Gaerlan recounted her eight days in jail.

"An officer yelled at me, inches from my face. I was terrified," she said.

She says immigration officers coerced her into a signing away her rights and agreeing to voluntarily return to the Philippines.

"They told me that if I signed that I would be back in a few months. They said if I asked to see a judge that I would be deported anyway and be barred from returning," she said.

But the family's immigration attorney says the immigration officers lied.

"When they told her to sign the order they knew that [she and her husband] were married, they knew that she was eligible to apply for her green card. But it really did not make a difference in their decision," said attorney Anoop Prasad.

Army reservist Thad Schmierer played down the May 7 fight that brought the police to his door.

"Well you know everyone has disagreements and arguments its part of being married; it's part of being in a relationship. You know, things can get kind of loud," he said.

He told the police his wife scratched his arm and he said he asked them not to arrest her. But he didn't argue with the police.

"I'm not going to argue because I am a Criminal Justice student and I kind of understand a little bit of what's going on," said Schmierer.

Gaerlan concluded the protest with a plea to President Barack Obama.

"I know you're looking forward to spending Father's Day this Sunday with your wife and daughters. As a parent I ask you to let me and other immigrants spend Father's Day with their families and not put me on a plane. Thank you," she said.

ABC7 News contacted United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington D.C. and received a statement saying:

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has exercised prosecutorial discretion in Ms. Gaerlan's case, cancelling the formerly issued order of voluntary departure."

Gaerlan will be able to stay and getting legal status is just a matter of filling out the proper paper work.


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