An Immigration Nightmare: Action Alert

Bump and Update: An online petition to help the Servanos is here. If you are from Pennsylvania, or neighboring area, please go on over and sign. Also, here's their lawyers' letter (pdf) to Homeland Security.

Original Post: 11/17/07

Meet Pedro and Salvacion Servano, a married Filipino couple who have been in the U.S. for 25 years.

Pedro Servano, 54, is a prominent family doctor in an underserved area of central Pennsylvania. His 51-year-old wife runs a grocery store and bakery..... Pedro Servano works at Geisinger Medical Group in Selinsgrove, where he has about 2,000 patients.

Two of their four children graduated from Temple University, while one is in high school and another is in middle school. Several years ago, the Servanos bought and renovated two properties in nearby Sunbury. Salvacion Servano recently opened a small grocery store there, selling Asian goods and baked items.


In 1978, while they were single, their mothers applied for visas for them to come to the U.S. They married in the Philippines in 1980. Mrs. Servano's visa application was granted in 1982, and she came to the U.S. Dr. Servano's visa was granted in 1984 and he followed. They've lived here ever since, raising their family, working, contributing to the community, paying taxes.

The Servanos applied to become U.S. citizens in 1990 and were refused. Why? Because their visa applications said they were single (which they were when their mothers filed them.)

Now, their appeals exhausted after an immigration official said they lied on their visa applications, they've been told to report to ICE for the start of deportation proceedings the day after Thanksgiving.

His legal team is considering emergency appeals in court and directly to the U.S. attorney general's office. The family has lobbied for help from politicians. Friends scheduled a prayer vigil in Sunbury for Saturday night.

Even an ICE official is on their side:

"I fervently believe in the ICE mission. However, the Servanos did not sneak into this country illegally, they have broken no laws, and they have not been a burden to the economy. They pose no threat," DHS counterterrorism operative Bill Schweigart wrote in a letter obtained by The Daily Item of Sunbury. "I cannot fathom how deporting the Servanos fulfills any portion of the ICE mission. In fact, I would argue the action runs counter to it."

Hopefully there will be some action alerts letting us know how we can help the Servanos.

But this is not just a case of the need for immigration reform and a path to legalization. It's a reminder of the need for Congress if it enacts such reform to avoid policies that require people like the Servanos to go to the back of the line and return to their home countries and wait years and pay substantial fees in order to return.

When you hear the Democratic candidates bemoan Congress' lack of immigration reform, it's important to ask of each one: What exactly is your reform proposal? Does it entail a one-size-fits-all policy of requiring everyone in the U.S. without proper documentation to return to their country of origin and wait in line to come back before being approved for citizenship? If so, it's not immigration reform. It's a continuance of the failed policy we have now.

There has to be a way to recognize and provide relief for people like the Servanos. It can't be done with a blanket "go home, wait and then come back" policy.

Here's more on what we need our candidates to support in terms of immigration reform.

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    The patients and citizens (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by lilybart on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 01:43:52 PM EST
    of his town need to get a petition together to say that they WANT them to stay and the town needs this doctor.

    black and white conservativism does not serve humanity

    Laws (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by manys on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 02:37:52 PM EST
    This is obviously an indication of some loophole that should be closed. Maybe some of those pro-forma congressional meetings during the now-cancelled t-day recess can be used for this.

    Sick (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Kewalo on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 05:32:35 PM EST
    This whole immigration brouhaha just makes me feel ill. The meaness and nastiness of the anti-immigration people totally disheartens me.

    IMO we should all worry when the government is too rigid to find a way to help rather then hurt this family.

    Uh..... please try and be accurate (1.00 / 2) (#4)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 05:52:22 PM EST
    I am against illegal aliens. Not lawful immigrants.

    I am against open borders. Not people following the law.

    I think the above is true of 99% of the people who want the borders closed and the laws enforced.

    This whole thing is just so ridiculous it is beyond belief.

    My one question is this. If they applied for citizenship in 1990... the appeals process has taken 17 years??

    I'd like some details.


    long, long process (5.00 / 0) (#14)
    by txpublicdefender on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 10:20:56 PM EST
    I can't speak to the official facts in this case, but immigrant citizen applications--those filed by people already here on legal permanent resident status--have been known to wait years to get a decision on their application.  

    I once represented a woman in a political asylum case, and when she applied for her green card after having her requisite one year of asylee status, she was told that the approximate wait to review her application was 8 years.  I don't find anything unusual about the 17-year time span.

    This should be a very simple case, really.  The Attorney General has the authority to overturn any decision made by anyone down the chain in ICE.  Congress has the authority to grant them citizenship in a special law.  I assume that someone has already contacted the relevant congresspersons from Pennsylvania to get this started.

    FWIW, using "material misrepresentation" on an earlier application as a grounds to deny a new application and subject to removal proceedings is a classic INS/ICE tactic.  Another favorite is denying someone asylum on the basis of their character for dishonesty because they entered the country on a false passport.  Of course, these are often people who are fleeing persecution from their government, thus making any attempt by them to get a passport an impossibility.

    Nothing surprises me when it comes to the unfairness of the immigration process.


    Why not have a full (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by tnthorpe on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 08:43:58 PM EST
    hour debate on immigration issues for the candidates instead of the malarkey we just saw on CNN? I'd love to hear about the candidates' positions on sanctuary cities, the status of folk such as the Servanos, DLs, GLBT issues, border fence, militarization of the border, the economic issues in Latin America and here brought on by NAFTA and other such agreements, pathways to citizenship, etc. I'd like to hear specific proposals. I'd like to hear a promise to stop using the word illegal and use undocumented.

    I'd love for the hour to be moderated by Heriberto Yepez,  Guillermo Gomez Pena, and Isabel Allende and Amy Tan. Artists who know about the borders being crossed, and the personal, social, economic costs of such journeys.

    Can you explain (1.00 / 0) (#15)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 09:14:42 AM EST
    this comment you recently made?

    "To Palestinians the wall and illegal settlements are strangling their livelihoods and destroying their culture"

    So it is bad for illegal aliens who just happen to be Jews and move into Palestine.... but it is OK for illegal aliens to move into the US..

    Think your learned group can explain the difference??


    Scarcity (5.00 / 0) (#19)
    by squeaky on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 01:03:08 PM EST
    Try looking at a map. Yes, I know that you wet yourself just thinking that Mexixcans will outnumber white guys like you and turn the US into a Muslim state with sharia law, but if Israel were the same size as the US there would be no Israeli/Palestinian war.

    Immigration law is the worst (5.00 / 0) (#18)
    by txpublicdefender on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 12:09:20 PM EST
    The first case I remember reading in my immigration law class was about a man who was literally stuck on Ellis Island.  He had no country who would claim him and the US would not admit him.  He literally lived on Ellis Island for years.  He filed a writ of habeas corpus and the Supreme Court told him that he didn't even have the right to be heard in court.  He could, legally, be kept in no man's land forever.  It was a good case to set all of the students up for the arbitrary and capricious nature of immigration law.  Fairness and common sense are, quite simply, irrelevant to this area of law--when it comes to the courts.  They give complete and utter deference to the other branches.  

    For example, many people think that if you are the natural born child of a US citizen, then you are automatically a US citizen.  But, that is not true.  If you are born in a foreign country to a US citizen mother, you are automatically a US citizen.  But, if you are born in a foreign country to a foreign woman and a US citizen man, and the two are not married, you are NOT a US citizen unless the father files an affidavit of paternity before you reach a certain age.  Even if the father unequivocally claims you as his child past that age, and DNA tests prove conclusively that you are his child, you can't ever claim natural-born citizenship.  It makes no sense and it is completely unfair, but it's the law, and the courts won't do a damn thing about it.

    your idiocy (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by tnthorpe on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 04:58:43 PM EST
    reaches a new low

    You write and I read. (1.00 / 1) (#22)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 05:05:54 PM EST
    You seem to think that you can take any position and it not be noticed.

    Doesn't work that way. That's why we have monikers.

    Tell us. Why is illegal immigration bad by Jews and OK by (mostly) Mexicans???


    Same Reason (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by squeaky on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 05:12:56 PM EST
    That people whose IQ are below 50 are held to a different standard than so called normal people. You need not bother trying to compare maps of Israel and the US, we understand.

    nice bold print (5.00 / 0) (#24)
    by tnthorpe on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 05:26:58 PM EST
    too bad about the total absence of intellectual content.

    You've gone from raving about metaphor to simply raving.

    Surely there are baskets you could be weaving underwater somewhere?


    I use bold (1.00 / 0) (#25)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 07:57:39 PM EST
    when it is apparent that the point will not be acknowledged.

    Just keep on showing the lack of standards for your logic is all I ask.

    You will prove my points time and again.


    You don't have (5.00 / 0) (#26)
    by tnthorpe on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 09:29:11 PM EST
    a point, just pointless rants with no, zero, zip, nada, zilch, nul, negative value.

    So post away. Add post after post to your bonfire of inanities.


    So you don't have an answer (1.00 / 0) (#27)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 09:57:39 PM EST
    to what I have pointed out.

    And that is it is a double standard to support illegal immigration into the US and not support it into Palestine.

    Wrong is wrong, isn't it??

    Oh, I know. You define what is wrong.


    Try to follow (5.00 / 0) (#28)
    by tnthorpe on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 10:02:49 PM EST
    There is no country called Palestine, and the Palestinian Authority is not even a functioning entity these days. There is simply no valid comparison.

    How can you not know this basic, kindergarten stuff? Why do you keep pestering people?

    I'm worried about your Thanksgiving, because your many posts have been such turkeys <metaphor> that you can't have any left at your house.


    Oh really?? (1.00 / 0) (#29)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Nov 22, 2007 at 10:37:38 AM EST
    Are you telling me that the "occupied" lands, Jewish settlements aren't a burning issue with the Palestinians?? Please. You know better. Or perhaps you have been asleep for the past 40 years.

    And if there is nothing and no one there, why did you write?

    "To Palestinians the wall and illegal settlements are strangling their livelihoods and destroying their culture"

    You see tnthorpe, that means you are against the wall and illegal settlements. Now you tell me that there is no Palastine and no government so there is no problem with the settlements????


    Look. If it is wrong there it is wrong here. Situational ethics really don't work on the large issues we face in life.

    As for Thanksgiving, I am thankful. Thankful that as screwed up as Bush is and as much as I disagree with him on so many issues....I am thankful that the far Left is not in control.

    And I am surprised you didn't write, "burning turkeys..." I mean you found the thought of Rove burning "tart and entertaining."


    awwww (5.00 / 0) (#30)
    by tnthorpe on Thu Nov 22, 2007 at 01:18:28 PM EST
    i love it when you stomp your foot and pout about the LEFT.

    Still no closer to understanding a dang thing I write than ever.

    But go ahead and make stuff up and pout and share your rants with the world at large. You're always good for a giggle.


    I don't make things up (1.00 / 0) (#31)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Nov 22, 2007 at 03:41:20 PM EST
    I quote you.

    You made the comments about the Palestinians and you have defended illegal immigration and Repack's statement.

    Those are facts.  Try them.


    No (5.00 / 0) (#32)
    by tnthorpe on Thu Nov 22, 2007 at 04:02:34 PM EST
    you mis-quote, mis-understand, mis-construe

    in short you miss-the-boat


    Have a great Thanksgiving!!!


    No. I don't. (1.00 / 0) (#33)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Nov 22, 2007 at 07:02:41 PM EST
    Repack's comment invokes scenes of violence. If he had not wanted to do that he shouldn't have written what he wrote.

    Your comment finding his comment entertaining indicates agreement.

    There is no changing that. There is no denying that.


    ROFLMAO (5.00 / 0) (#34)
    by tnthorpe on Thu Nov 22, 2007 at 07:04:13 PM EST
    You go get 'em tiger!!!

    Don't worry! (none / 0) (#35)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Nov 23, 2007 at 08:54:36 AM EST
    I'll be here for you!

    And... (1.00 / 2) (#5)
    by jarober on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 06:11:02 PM EST
    Perhaps if you spent time trying to bring up things like this - and get the legal immigration system reformed - instead of implying that anyone who wants to see illegal immigration controlled is a racist - you might get somewhere.

    Instead, the left is as against the grain on immigration, vis-a-vis the public, as you say the right is on the war.

    How's that working out for immigration reform?

    Just curious but (none / 0) (#7)
    by ding7777 on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 10:13:43 PM EST
    why would the mothers be filling out the applications in 1978 when Pedro (at least) was an adult?

    Perhaps (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Jen M on Sun Nov 18, 2007 at 06:57:20 AM EST
    her English was better at the time.

    i wondered that myself. (none / 0) (#8)
    by cpinva on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 10:24:14 PM EST
    i thought perhaps it might be because their mothers were already in the US, but nothing in the linked story indicates that was the case.

    so i guess what the ICE is saying is that your marital status must remain as it was, when you first got a visa, regardless of how long it takes to get your citizenship?

    somehow, i'm not convinced that was congress' intent. i think someone in the ICE has seriously misinterpreted the statute.


    Sevano Petition ONLINE (none / 0) (#10)
    by kmm1956 on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 10:39:58 AM EST
    This is in my hometown. Dr. Servano is my personal physician. In support of he and his wife. This is ripping his family apart. Young, in love, wanting to get back together after 2 yrs apart. A taxpaying citizen, active in the community, and business owners, how can one say deport them?????????

    This is a very rural area of Pennsylvania, where they cannot keep good physicians, this is absurd. Everyone makes mistakes in their lives and nobody can say honestly they haven't, not even myself......please understand he and the family have not hidden in anyway from this. Unlike many in our area and move from area to area to keep ahead of the Immigration Office.

    It would be nice that people care about outstanding citizens that come to America to fulfill a DREAM.....just as the Servano's have. If you do care please help by signing the online petition, DONATION NOT REQUIRED!!!!!

    All please go to this site to show your support for the Servano's:


    Of course we have so many doctors... (none / 0) (#12)
    by desertswine on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 12:25:13 PM EST
    and such great medical care, that we can just throw them away.

    Yes, Virginia,

    Outside the gates, people lay in their trucks or in tents pitched along the grassy parking lot, waiting for their chance to have their medical needs treated at no charge -- part of an annual three-day "expedition" led by a volunteer medical relief corps called Remote Area Medical.

    Looking only at the Sevano's submission (none / 0) (#11)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 12:01:37 PM EST
      It appears that the deportation is premised solely on a material misrepresentation on their visa application two decades ago (as to marital status). The Servanos claim the misrepresentation was not intentional (they married between the time of completing visa applications and granting of the visas).

      The first question I have is the marital status truly material. in other words,  would they have been denied visas had they disclosed their marriage? Second, even if it was material to the grating of the visas, in the absence of proof of willful intent to misrepresent is that legal cause for deportation without exception?

       Even if those answers are affirmative,  given that the INS and then ICE seem to have allowed this case to sit dormant for an extraordinarily long period of time and the family is clearly not only not a threat but a boon to the community, is someone in Congress proposing legislation to grant them citizenship? I seem to recall cases where athletes have been granted early citizenship by congress  so they could represent us in the Olympics. The equities here would appear to outweigh those involved there.


    update (none / 0) (#13)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 05:32:35 PM EST

      From a local NP website. The last sentence soewhat vaguely alluded to the possibility of a private act of Congress I inquired about earlier.

    You Don't Have the Whole Story Here (none / 0) (#16)
    by ctg21361 on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 09:46:31 AM EST
    Unfortunately, the whole story is not being told.  All you have is information from the media (quite known to sensationalize things and try to get people to be on someone's side) and the couple's attorney.  As a former immigrant (now a citizen) who was approved on the same preference as the Servanos, I will say that they lied on their application.

    Why did the parents make the application?  It is called a petition, and the Servanos, as single children at that time of citizens/lawful permanent residents, were approved as second preference (1st preference is immediate relative such as when a child petitions for a parent).  I was also subject of a petition back in maybe 1981 or 1983.  I was notified and two years later, I got my immigration number (no visa yet).  Also included were biographical data and an affidavit of support.  I understood that as long as I was waiting for the visa and trip to the U.S., I was supposed to stay single (I'm not even a physician).  My younger brother also knew that, and he still got married when he fell in love.  While I was approved for immigration (after submitting my biographical data, going for a health screen, submitting the affidavit and interviewing with a consul), my brother was not, since he informed the U.S. Embassy in Manila of his change in status.  Upon entry for the first time as an immigrant to the U.S. in 1991 (that is how long I stayed single if I wanted to immigrate), I was asked several questions, among them (since I was second preference, single child of a citizen/lawful permanent resident), "Are you or have you ever been married?" and "Do you have or have you had any children?"  I answered "No," and then was ordered by the immigration official to write the statements "I have never been married" and "I have never had any children" on my entry papers (this is at the port of entry).  It is for this reason that I believe the Servanos concealed their marital status and lied upon entering the U.S.  Just because he is a noted physician is no excuse.  If you go after politicians for DUIs, etc., why should this be any different?  And it is not fair to licensed professionals in the Philippines who abide by U.S. law in their native country and wait for even as long as fifteen years, despite knowing that by the time they are approved and it is time to go to the U.S., they can no longer practice their professions because they have reached retirment age and just go for jobs like security guard, grocery crew, receptionist or any other job that is not a high-paying professional career that they were trained and licensed for.  The fair thing to do is to deport the Servanos; otherwise, you are sending a message to other prospective immigrants that it is okay to lie to immigration officials to speed up the granting of your visa and say that there was a "paperwork" or "clerical" error.  There is no 'honest mistake' in dishonesty.  And, if Dr. Servano did not know about informing the U.S. Embassy of the change in status, he does not deserve his professional license either, because just as he is supposed to take responsibility for keeping that license current and notifying the licensing board of any change in status, he also should have taken the responsibility of informing the U.S. Embassy in Manila of a change in status.  If he can use "paperwork" or "clerical" error as an excuse, I dread any excuse he will make in the event of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

    that would (none / 0) (#17)
    by Deconstructionist on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 10:09:02 AM EST
      Answer the question about whether the misrepresentation was "material" but you are just assuming the misrepresentation was intentional. You are correct that we have no information as to what evidence might exist to prove or disprove intent, but just as we can't assume lack of intent you can't assume intent.

      The reason for and the rationality of the reason distinguishing between single and married children of legal naturalized citizens or legal permanent residents is beyond the scope of the an administrative hearing but it is something that political actors can consider.
    The political actors can also consider the equities that are beyond the scope of jurisdiction of administrative bodies.

      I can understand distinguishing on the basis of age (meaning a minor child needs to be with parent more than an adult child) but what reason is there for distinguishing between two 25 year olds because one is married and one is single?

    Another immigration nightmare (none / 0) (#36)
    by mkrelle on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:30:35 AM EST
    see christophersinback.com
    The USCIS threatened to deport my mentally retarded stepson for a 17 year old crime after we filed for a Certificate of Citizenship in May, 2007. This caused my wife of 35 years to die of a massive stroke. When she was in Greece with her 1st husband in 1968 (who was working for Lockheed), they adopted a orphan who was born in Germany to a German girl and a Greek guest worker. The US Embassy told them when they applied in Athens for a passport for their son that he would become a US Citizen on his 18th birthday. The laws have changed many times since then, but now they say he is an criminal alien and as such must be deported. He is a Legal Permanent Resident and a IR-3 'Immediate Relative'. The German's do not consider him a German nor do the Greeks consider him a Greek and the US denies him Citizenship so he is a stateless person. What will happen to him except get stuck in the US immigration Gulag. I am waiting for an appeal from the AAO in Washington but I am scared to death. ICARE (Intercountry Adoption Reform Act of 2007) H.R 120 would fix this mess, and others, and was included in both last years and this years immigration reform bills that went down in defeat. H.R. 120 was sponsored by Rep. Jo Ann Davies (R) of Virginia of died last month of breast cancer. So it is non-partisan and yet it has floundered since 2004 in Congress. The excuse was that the Hague Convention on Intercounty Adoption needed to be ratified, which it was on December 12th 2007, after 13 years, so for God's sake lets get the Bill passed and grant orphans adopted by US Citizens US Citizenship.