by Jonathan Gramling
|International Travel Woes
With how fast the world turns these days, I hope people remember Heidi Pascual. Heidi moved to the United States from her
native Philippines in the late 1990s, following her mom and siblings who lived in Chicago. Heidi ended up being the assistant
editor to the late Betty Franklin-Hammonds at The Madison Times for about a year before Betty passed away in 1999, already 20
I ended up becoming the editor of The Madison Times and Heidi remained as my associate editor until we both left The Madison
Times in 2005 with Heidi founding Asian Wisconzine and then ended up being my associate editor at The Capital City Hues in
2006 when we got rolling in March 2006.
Heidi became a naturalized U.S. citizen and bought her own condo, but then some of her American Dreams faded a bit with the
Great Recession and the collapse of the print journalism industry. Heidi made Asian Wisconzine an online publication and
moved back to The Philippines in 2010 although she maintained her legal residence here as I, in essence, became her tenant by
moving into her condo. She also continued to work for The Capital City Hues as a feature writer, webmaster and formatter of our
classified ads and Happenings section. Heidi continued to pay Wisconsin and U.S. income taxes and maintained her dual U.S.
and Filipino citizenships. Heidi comes back from time to time to visit in the Houston, Chicago and Madison areas.
There hasn’t been any international travel problems for Heidi, but in the Trump era, it is a different story for Heidi’s daughter Sherry.
Sherry is a Filipino citizen although Heidi has filed an immigration petition on her behalf. Sherry is married and has two children. Sherry makes her living in the
Metro Manila area as a real estate agent. I’ve talked to Sherry on the phone and we are Facebook friends. From the praises that Heidi has had of her daughter over
the years, she has been the stalwart of the family and loves her family very much. They are middle-class in the context of the Filipino economy.
Sherry has a 10-year, multiple-entry visa for the United States and has visited the U.S. twice before as a tourist to visit her aunt and uncles in the Chicago area. From
what I understand, all went normally during those visits. But her attempt to visit the United States earlier this month was anything but routine (except in the new
normal of Trump isolationism).
According to Heidi, “My daughter Sherry was refused entry at LA Airport by (I presume) an immigration agent on Sept. 18, and was SENT BACK to the Philippines. She
has a multiple-entry visa for 10 years, but she said it has been revoked there. They got her cellphone, forced her to open it (with her password), and she wasn't
allowed to even see and talk to her friend who's supposed to pick her up at the airport. She was so scared and feared that we wouldn't see her again. She said the
immigration officer, a Latino named Ricardo Elvira, Jr., threatened her with detention/imprisonment and insisted she is going to work or stay in the US. Sherry said
she answered that she would not jeopardize my immigrant petition for her so she's coming back to the Philippines for sure. The immigration officer said my daughter
is lying, but checked and when he saw that indeed I have a pending petition for Sherry, he said Sherry can reapply for a visa but has to go back first! Sherry is
supposed to visit my siblings and take a rest from her hectic real estate work! My daughter has been crying, couldn't eat and sleep for days now, tormented by the
horrible treatment she received in LA. I am praying hard for her to recover from the mental and emotional pain of this ordeal, because as her mother, I feel my
daughter's pain, too.”
I contacted U.S. Representative Mark Pocan’s office on Heidi’s behalf. Sherry’s detention seemed to be capricious. Among the things that Mark’s office told us was
“There are many reasons for a person to be denied entry into the U.S. The most obvious reasons for denied entry include if a person has previously worked illegally
in the U.S., is suspected of being an intended immigrant (i.e. planning on staying in the U.S. past the terms of their admission), or of having ties to terrorist or criminal
organizations. But there are many more reasons for persons to be excluded from the U.S. Among them are having been found guilty of crimes of moral turpitude (child
molestation, rape, fraud, theft, etc.), having been found guilty of a criminal offense (for instance murder or grand theft), having overstayed a previous visit to the U.S.,
or if the visitor is suspected of having an infectious disease. In addition, tourist visitors to the U.S. are expected to have sufficient funds to support themselves
while here — in order to ensure that they will not attempt to find employment in the U.S., which is a violation of the terms of the tourist visa.”
When I compare Sherry’s circumstances with the criteria for denying someone entry, I don’t know why she was denied entry outside of some capricious and
arbitrary reason. For all I know, the immigration officer was just having a bad day and was intent on messing with someone.
I can’t help but feel that the Trump Administration and its anti-immigrant policies are the beginning of the end for the “greatness” of the United States whose
democratic ideals and economic engine have always been fueled by the immigrants who have feverishly worked to claim their American Dream.
When we stop attracting talent on all levels, the United States will stagnate and lose its economic and moral position in the world. Overt and covert racism will
cause the downfall of the United States and not the growth of America’s communities of color, which is just another chapter in the United States immigration