HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Herbert Carino, 31, has been granted a reprieve — for now. A federal immigration judge agreed that he could face death in the Philippines, where the president has ordered police and death squads to kill thousands of drug suspects.
But that order is being appealed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In an interview with Hawaii News Now, Carino and his fiance, Margaret, said they fear for his life if he's sent back to the Philippines.
"It's been like a roller coaster ride because I've been doing good ever since I came out of prison," Carino said.
Carino immigrated to Hawaii when he was 9, to live with his father, a U.S. citizen.
A year later, his immigration ordeal began.
Carino said though his father was a U.S. citizen, his own immigration status was never addressed by his family. He holds a green card to lawfully reside in the United States.
"If you're a green card holder and a convicted felon you will get deported," said Gary Singh, Carino's attorney.
But Singh believes Carino has a right to U.S. citizenship and has been fighting the deportation for years.
And when Carino's latest attempt to gain citizenship was denied by an immigration appeals board, Singh made a new legal argument: That based on Carino's past — as a convicted drug dealer — he would be a target in Duterte's war on drugs.
"You do not see a convention against torture being granted (often) because the standard is extremely high," Singh said. "You got to show that very likely you will be killed."
Carino's fiance and two children are U.S. citizens, and the couple plan to be married in May.
"Herbert deserves every right to be here," said Carino's fiance, Margaret Watson.
The family is now fighting Homeland Security's appeal in the case.
At an immigration hearing in December, Carino was shocked when he was unexpectedly taken into custody and held at the Federal Detention Center until Feb. 15, when his family posted a $10,000 bond for his release.
Singh said Carino has turned his life around and paid the time for his crime.
"He only has this one conviction. Since he's been out, he's been responsible, he has not gotten back into trouble. He's been gainfully employed," he said.
In the meantime, Carino is enjoying his time