LOS ANGELES — A 31-year-old Filipino Harvard graduate and doctoral candidate at UC San Diego has been granted a one-year reprieve from his deportation to the Philippines, and has been released from a detention facility, where he was held for over a month.

Mark Farrales, who was brought to the United States illegally at age 10 in 1990, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents at his Los Angeles home in Reseda on Nov. 17.

According to the Los Angeles Times, he was released from custody last week after Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) urged ICE to defer action on the deportation order and allow the Board of Immigration Appeals to revisit the case.

Sherman’s chief of staff had already been reviewing the matter when Sherman himself learned of Farrales’ situation from a Los Angeles Times article.

Farrales was brought to the United States just days after two alleged hit men shot his father twice in the head outside their home in Quezon City.

His father, Jaime Farrales, was a prominent lawyer who often spoke out against government corruption and had just announced a bid for office.

Jaime Farrales survived and fled with his family to Los Angeles on travel visas, seeking political asylum.

A series of legal missteps and poor advice caused Jaime Farrales to have his political asylum application denied, said Leon Hazany, Farrales’ attorney.

When Jaime Farrales died in June 2006, Hazany said, the battle to achieve legal status also died and Farrales was left without legal status.

Meanwhile, Farrales assimilated in the U.S. and thrived academically, graduating magna cum laude from the college with a concentration in government.

His dissertation at UCSD seeks to address government efforts to combat corruption.

Sherman said the circumstances in which the younger Farrales arrived in the country and the success he has had compelled the congressman to act.

“It’s clearly in our national interest that young people who came here through no fault of their own and have proven themselves to be the good citizens of the future should be a part of this country,” Sherman said.

But while he advanced academically, he was unable to achieve legal residency, until ICE agents arrested him and brought him to the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, California.

His case rose to prominence as friends, family and political leaders rallied on his behalf.

“I’m not 100 percent sure of the series of discussions on the part of ICE that led to my deferral, but I know Congressman Sherman’s office was involved and contacted the ICE on my behalf,” Farrales said.

“My inmate number was called over the PA system. I showed up to the room, where some paperwork was ready. Officials said ‘You’re leaving today.’”

Farrales said his lawyer Leon Hazany, an L.A. immigration attorney, filed a motion with the Board of Immigration Appeals to reopen his own asylum case — separate from his father’s — to land a court hearing.

Farrales, who also graduated valedictorian from Belmont High School in L.A., said previous attorneys gave him poor advice; he was told that he did not need to file for a student visa, as his case was coupled with his father’s.

“It took days for it to sink in how lucky I am,” he said following his release.

“But being allowed to stay here is not guaranteed.”

Deferred action is used in cases that involve compelling and humanitarian issues to allow the individual additional time to pursue legal options, ICE said in a statement.

A year could be enough time to secure citizenship for Farrales, but it will be difficult, Hazany said.

“I think his case is strong,” he said.

“But it’s not what I think that matters; it’s up to the Board of Immigration Appeals.”

Farrales is relieved to be home and surrounded by family and friends for Christmas.

“The legal struggle is going to be there regardless and it’s going to be long, arduous and tiresome,” he said.

“But it’s a lot easier to fight on the outside than it is from the inside.”

In his Facebook, Farrales thanked his hundreds of supporters who actively contacted U.S. Government officials to help him.

“I am absolutely shocked and dumfounded by this level of support,” he wrote.

“I cannot find the words to express just how I feel. It’s an overwhelming feeling, a transcendental feeling, a transformative feeling.”

Farrales told The Harvard Crimson that his deferral could not have happened without the help of his professors, his lawyer and friends like Jeffrey R. Chaput ‘01, whom he met on campus move-in day in 1997 as a first-year student at the College.


The two were roommates at Harvard for the first four years, residing in Grays West and then Leverett House, and Chaput helped rally support for Farrales’ cause.

While Farrales was detained, Chaput visited him at the detention center, where he slept on a bunk bed in barracks with approximately 70 other detainees.

Farrales held an impromptu English class daily for detainees from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Somalia.

Chaput describes Farrales as his “brother” and “the nicest person the world has to offer,” and said that he mobilized friends from Leverett and Delta Upsilon — now known as the Oak Club — to organize a letter campaign among Harvard alumni, faculty and staff to plead Farrales’ case before the government.

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