The wife of a Chicago-area pastor who also works as a custodian at Moody Bible Institute was deported last month for overstaying her visa. She lived in the United States for over three decades and was seen as an integral part of her church community, but didn’t have access to a good immigration lawyer to navigate the system which led to her troubles, her attorney says.
Julita Bartolome was arrested in July after appearing for a meeting with federal immigration agents in Illinois, as reported by NPR’s WBEZ Chicago.
The hope for that meeting was for her to be able to apply to have her relationship with her husband, U.S. citizen Edgardo Bartolome, acknowledged by immigration officials so she could get a green card.
Instead, Bartolome spent over a month at the McHenry County Adult Correctional Facility and is now thousands of miles away from her family in her native Philippines, despite failed efforts from members of Congress to halt the deportation order.
Bartolome was put on a plane and flown to Manila on Aug. 22. Now, she is outside the country with her family in the U.S. trying to apply for her to receive an immigrant visa, according to the family’s lawyer, Katherine Del Rosario.
“This case is about a woman with no criminal history, and actually a very long history of benevolent volunteerism and involvement in her church and her community,” Del Rosario said, according to NPR. “She’s being sent back to a country that she hasn’t called home for 30 years.”
Bartolome arrived in the U.S. in 1988 when she came to work as a maid. And until 2000, she lived in Florida.
According to Del Rosario, Bartolome overstayed her visa and did not know how to navigate the U.S. immigration system. Additionally, she lacked access to a good lawyer because of financial troubles.
NPR reports that Bartolome (maiden name Julita Rafael) applied for asylum after her visa expired on grounds that she was fleeing from the Marcos regime like many other Filipinos during the 1980s. However, her application was denied and she was referred to an immigration court. She was later granted a voluntary departure from the U.S. and given a month to return to the Philippines.
Although she appealed her asylum rejection, her appeal was dismissed. Del Rosario says that Bartolome’s lawyer at the time did not inform her that the appeal had been dismissed and that her removal order was still active.
Julita met Edgardo Bartolome and his two children after his first wife died of cancer in 2000. The couple later married and Julita Bartolome became a central part of their family unit and the church community at Immanuel Baptist Church in Chicago’s Northwest side, where Bartolome pastored.
It was in 2002 that the Bartolomes filed a petition called an I-130 to have the government acknowledge that Julita Bartolome was in a familial relationship with a U.S. citizen, a status that allowed her to apply for legal status.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith