Hawaii man: Deportation to Philippines would be a death sentence

Hawaii man: Deportation to Philippines would be a death sentence
Published: Feb. 21, 2017 at 4:07 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2017 at 9:46 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

A Hawaii man convicted on drug charges a decade ago is fighting deportation to the Philippines, claiming that sending him back to the country he left when he was 9 would essentially be a death sentence given Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs.

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.

He grew up in Ewa Beach, and graduated from Kalaeloa Youth Challenge with his high school diploma.

After high school, Carino started using crystal meth. And at 21, he was convicted of selling the drug. He served nearly eight years in federal prison and was released in 2011.

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.

Singh said he asked an immigration judge to re-consider Carino's case given the Convention against Torture, an international human rights treaty that aims to prevent acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Thousands of people have been killed without trial in the Philippines since Duterte vowed to lock up every drug dealer, peddler, suspect, and drug user.

Singh argued  and the immigration judge agreed  that because of his client's prior drug conviction, Carino's life would be in jeopardy if he was sent back.

"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.

Today, Carino is a commercial truck driver for a local produce company and frequently speaks with at-risk youth about staying away from drugs.

"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.

"They just ripped him out of our home. Cost us everything that we have. we have nothing," Watson said. "His roots are here. His life is here and Homeland Security just keeps appealing and keeps ripping him out of our home and that's not right."

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.

If the ruling allowing him to stay is overturned, Carino plans to take his case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It could be one or two more years until the case is resolved, one way or another.

In the meantime, Carino is enjoying his time

"People make mistakes, but I do believe people deserve a second chance, you know?" Carino said. "I don't think God would give me a family and then he just rip it apart away from me."

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