Filipino family to be deported on Christmas for mistake made in ‘desperation’

Filipino family to be deported on Christmas for mistake made in ‘desperation’


When Jeffrey Santos is asked how he’s going to make Christmas Day special for his 8-year-old son James, he wells up with tears.

Santos, his wife Marjorie, and their son will be deported on December 25 back to Pampanga, in the Philippines, for what he says was a crime of “desperation to feed his family”.

Santos used a false address to claim $1600 worth of food vouchers during 2020’s Covid-19 lockdown because he was out of work and out of money, he said.

He was ineligible for help like the income relief payment, which was not available to migrant workers.

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Despite numerous appeals to stay and prove his character, and eight flight cancellations, the Santos family had to leave New Zealand. Christmas Day would be a struggle, he said.

“I am definitely broken. Because I am happy here, we are settled here and this is home.

“I don’t want to show my son how sad I am. I will try to make it happy. But deep down, at the back of my mind, I am sad … but I have done what I have done.”

Santos had been working as a “dogman”, giving directions for crane drivers in Cromwell for four years. He played basketball for a local club, and rented a family home in the middle of town. James goes to Cromwell Primary School and Marjorie is a nurse at Dunstan Hospital.

Jeffrey Santos and his son James at their rental property in Cromwell. The Santos family is being deported to the Philippines on Christmas Day after receiving food vouchers under false addresses.

Stuff

Jeffrey Santos and his son James at their rental property in Cromwell. The Santos family is being deported to the Philippines on Christmas Day after receiving food vouchers under false addresses.

They send financial aid to family in the Philippines, who are struggling. Santos did not know what he would do for work at home, and said he would likely leave for another country as work was hard to find in the Philippines.

In April 2020, he was desperate, he said.

He initially applied for a voucher from his home address and received one worth $400. Ten days later, he had no work still, so applied for more vouchers using a Queenstown address.

He said he had seen others do that and get away with it.

“I couldn’t pay rent for two weeks, I had to do something. I can show you my bank account, I can prove it. I didn’t receive a wage subsidy and that’s why I needed to do something for my family.”

“I wish I hadn’t done this, but it is too late.”

Santos took full responsibility for his actions, and apologised to other Kiwis and migrants for the mistake, which he said he would never make again.

“I have done what I have done. I didn’t do it for myself I did it … to feed my family.

“I tried to ask for another chance. Please try me again. If I do another mistake, straight to the airport. But it was a mistake.”

Santos and his family would not get another chance.

James was sad to leave the friends he had made at school over the last four years.

“I’m going to miss school, it’s very unlucky.”

The Santos family won’t give up on their New Zealand dream.

Jeffrey Santos/Supplied

The Santos family won’t give up on their New Zealand dream.

Santos said it was the first time he had acted dishonestly. He visited the Catholic Church on his road every week and asked forgiveness.

Immigration New Zealand verification and compliance general manager Stephen Vaughan last month said Santos’ appeal to stay was declined because he did not have exceptional humanitarian circumstances.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi could not be reached for comment as Parliament was closed for the Christmas break.

The Santos family had not given up on their New Zealand dream. Jeffrey Santos’ boss had already told him he had a job waiting for him when he could legally return in five years, he said.

“I will come back as a new Jeffrey, not a silly Jeffrey. It is a big lesson to learn. Honesty is the best policy.”



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