POSTSCRIPT / November 21, 2006 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Bringing a maid to US could be risky business

MAID SUES: Filipinos residing in the United States who employ or plan to bring a maid or nanny to the US may learn from the experience of a long-time US resident couple who did that and will now pay heavily in back wages and be deported after four years in jail.

Here is an update of past Postscripts on Irma Martinez, 40, a live-in maid for 19 years of a Filipino couple in Brookfield, Wisconsin. She woke up to her Stateside rights, sued her employers — and won her freedom, a green card and possibly $705,000 in back wages.

Her employers, prominent doctors Jefferson and Elnora Calimlim who are in their 60s, were found guilty of harboring an illegal alien (Martinez), restricting her movements and making her work for wages that are a pittance compared to US standards.

While the couple who harbored her for almost two decades will pay dearly for their mistakes, a liberated Martinez now works in Chicago at Sephora, a high-end makeup store where she gets overtime pay after eight hours and still has time to herself.

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LIKE FAMILY: Here are more details culled from a Nov. 16 report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

At the sentencing of her former employers, Martinez said she had come to love the Calimlims and their three children while she worked as a virtual prisoner. She thought they were working to get her a green card, she said.

Last May, the couple was convicted at a federal jury trial of four felony counts: harboring an illegal immigrant for financial gain, conspiracy to harbor an illegal immigrant, forced labor and attempted forced labor.

Because they are just permanent residents and not US citizens, they are likely to be deported after four years in prison.

Their son, Jefferson M. Calimlim, 31 and a US citizen, was sentenced during a separate hearing to three years’ probation after Martinez said she did not blame him for her situation.

“You’re like a brother to me and I’ll always look at you that way,” Martinez told him. He was just 11 years old when she came to live with his family.

He was again living with his parents after his college graduation when federal agents raided their house in September 2004. Also convicted of harboring an illegal alien, he was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

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EX-WIFE’S TIP: Authorities were tipped about Martinez’s situation by the ex-wife of the Calimlims’ other son.

Martinez was 19 when she came to the US to work for them. She did not have proper documentation, so she was hidden in the Calimlim’s 8,600-square-foot house on Still Point Trail. They convinced her that if she did not obey them, she would be deported.

Martinez said she worked at least 15 hours a day, seven days a week, but was paid only about $20,000 for the entire 19 years.

US District Judge Rudolph T. Randa said the Calimlim couple must report to prison within 60 days. He will rule shortly on the government recommendation that Martinez be paid $704,635 in back wages, plus overtime.

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CULTURE CLASH: The defense argued that the Calimlims kept Martinez in the house for her own protection. She agreed to the working conditions because her situation in the US was better than the life she would have had in the Philippines, the defense said.

The elder Calimlims submitted letters signed by more than 100 supporters that spoke of their Catholic faith and their volunteer work, including providing free medical care to low-income patients. The letters also talked about how common it is for poor people from the Philippines to work as domestics.

The defense attorneys said the couple’s culture, not criminal intent, dictated their actions.

They said that in Philippine culture, maids generally work for room, board and a small salary that helps support their extended family. Their employers maintain an “ethical distance” from the servants that may be perceived by Americans as a “master/slave relationship,” the lawyers said.

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INHIBITION BASELESS: Back in Manila, when Supreme Court justices are maliciously denounced for their adverse ruling, suspicion naturally arises that the moves are inspired and perhaps even funded by the powers-that-be hurt by the decision.

More so because the vicious attacks on the justices are being made when there is still a pending motion for reconsideration of the ruling.

The motion of lawyers Ferdinand Topacio and Eliseo Ocampo to inhibit Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban for allegedly campaigning among his brethren to reject the People’s Initiative to amend the Constitution, and Justice Antonio T. Carpio for the caustic language he used in his ponencia, is without precedent in the 105-history of the Court.

Campaigning is tantamount to lobbying, but certainly articulating a position during a session is not campaigning or lobbying. There is no hint from any of the justices or Court insider that the Chief Justice campaigned or lobbied before or during the en banc discussions on the case.

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CHILDISH MOVE: No writer of a Supreme Court decision has ever recused himself in the resolution of a motion for reconsideration of the decision he wrote on the ground that he used caustic or intemperate language in his ponencia.

There have been several decisions of the Supreme Court where the ponente used far more virulent language than that used by Carpio in the landmark decision.

But the more provocative and despicable move against the justices perceived to have been the core of the opposition in the Court to People’s Initiative is the impeachment complaint being prepared by some members of the House of Representatives.

The childish impeachment move was announced by Sorsogon Rep. Jose Solis who said, “I cannot run away from my duties, I will review the complaint and if it has basis, then I will endorse it.”

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U.S. PRECEDENTS: Virulent attacks against justices of the Supreme Court for their controversial decisions are nothing new.

After the US Supreme Court desegregated public schools in the unanimous 9-0 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, members of the Court got boxes of hate mail. (I mentioned this case in a previous Postscript.)

The public reaction from prominent political figures was equally condemnatory. South Carolina Gov. James Bynes, himself a former Supreme Court justice, announced that “ South Carolina will not now nor for some years to come mix white and colored children in our schools.”

Georgia’s Richard Russell, deemed the most influential Southerner in the Senate at the time, raked the decision as a “flagrant abuse of judicial power.” He insisted, without explanation, that “ways must be found to check the tendency of the Court to disregard the Constitution.”

The Washington editor of the conservative opinion magazine National Review argued that the Court had overreached itself. He suggested that “the Court needs to be disciplined quite aside from the impact of its decisions on our constitutional system,” stressing “we must teach the Court judicial responsibility.”

But Chief Justice Earl Warren dismissed the personal attacks against him. He accepted the reality that the desegregation decision would be assailed in certain quarters by prominent public figures.

He said: “It does not matter what goddam reasons we give, they react depending on whether they like the result or not.” He grumbled that “no matter how carefully we work on it, state our most basic reasons as clearly and simply as we can, it doesn’t make any headway against the opposition we run into.”

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DASTARDLY ATTACK: But though the adverse reaction to the US Supreme Court’s desegregation decision was acrimonious, even defiant, the attacks came after issuance of the ruling, without any pending incident still unresolved by the court.

But here, the threat of reprisal in the form of an impeachment complaint to be filed in the House comes before finality of the ruling against charter change through People’s Initiative that its diehard advocates are stubbornly pressing.

More than just constituting contempt of court, the impeachment threat against some members of the Court is a dastardly assault on the independence not only of the Supreme Court but of the entire judiciary.

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FEU HIGH: Alumni of the Far Eastern University Boys and Girls High School from Classes 1961 to 1965 will hold a reunion Jan. 19 – 21, 2007. Activities will be capped by a whole-day symposium on the Morayta campus. The symposium will signal the week-long celebration of FEU’s 70th anniversary foundation focusing on career options for FEU graduates. More information may be secured from or from the Secretariat at or from 0927-3897189.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 21, 2006)

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