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December 23, 2004

Deaf Filipino begs to stay in US

From: San Jose Mercury News - San Jose,CA,USA - Dec 23, 2004

By Jessie Mangaliman
Mercury News

A deaf Filipino immigrant, the son of a World War II veteran, is pleading with the federal government to drop deportation proceedings against him, based on humanitarian grounds.

Gerardo Dulalia, 39, who works as an interpreter at Ohlone College in Fremont, lost his last chance to become a legal, permanent resident in the United States after his parents died a year apart, in 2000 and 2001. He has a deportation hearing before an immigration judge in San Francisco on Jan. 11.

Dulalia's father, Pablo Zuniga Dulalia, served alongside U.S. troops during World War II battles in the Philippines and was promised citizenship by the U.S. government. It wasn't until 1990, when such veterans were in their 70s and 80s, that the U.S. government made good on its 44-year-old promise, granting Dulalia's father citizenship. The Dulalias moved to the United States in 1992.

''By birthright, Gerry Dulalia is an American citizen,'' said Marcia Perez, Dulalia's attorney, during a news conference Wednesday in San Francisco.

''Had the U.S. government kept its promise, Gerry would have been born a U.S. citizen and not facing removal from the U.S,'' she said.

But because Dulalia, who was born in the Philippines, was already an adult when his father was granted citizenship, he did not automatically derive immigration benefits. His father, then his mother, who was a green-card holder, filed applications on his behalf for permanent resident status in the United States, Perez said.

Dulalia first came to the United States in 1987, on a student visa, to study at the school for the deaf at Ohlone College. His student visa has expired.

Dulalia's brother, who is a U.S. citizen, can file an application, but Dulalia would be required to leave the country and wait 22 years for his application to be processed, Perez said.

''We would all be senior citizens at that point,'' Perez said.

Dulalia, who signs onto the hands of blind students at Ohlone College, is a contributing member of society who has ''had such a raw deal in life,'' Perez said. It would be within the power of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration, to abandon deportation proceedings against Dulalia, she said.

Sharon Rummery, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined comment.

Dulalia, who lives in the Union City home where his parents used to live, told Perez that being deported to the Philippines would be devastating.

''I'd feel angry and hurt, and my life would crumble,'' Dulalia told Perez in sign language. Contact Jessie Mangaliman at jmangaliman@mercury or (408) 920-5794.

© 2004 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.