An Illegal Alien's Tale -- Caught In A Web Of Fraud And Dreams
Seattle Times Staff Reporter
A Redmond couple sought a maid. A Philippine woman sought out of poverty. They made deal. When it fell apart, the INS took only one party to court.
Eldon and Sally Doty wanted a maid. He was a retired Seattle police officer and a successful illustrator of children's books; she ran a prosperous travel agency. They had just moved into a sprawling estate in Redmond, and they told close friends they were going to get a maid from the Philippines. They did not reveal details of their plan.
The maid-to-be was a woman named Helen Bolusan. She was a distant relative of Sally Doty's. She was 27, the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer in a rural Philippine province. Helen stood 4 feet 11 inches and spoke halting English. Eldon Doty called her "diminutive," which describes not only her stature but her bearing. She exuded smallness. About the only thing of size in her was the desire to come to America.
She would be perfect, the Dotys decided.
The first step was arranging a sham marriage. The Dotys divorced but continued to live as man and wife. Eldon then brought Helen to the United States on a fiance visa, married her in a roadside chapel in Reno, then brought her to his five-bedroom, four-bathroom home in The Estates at Thornbury, a showcase enclave in northeast Redmond.
For the next 29 months, Helen would be the Dotys' personal servant. When the situation fell apart and Helen ran away, the Dotys turned her in to immigration officials while seeking immunity for themselves. They got it. Now Helen is on the verge of being deported.
"They (the Dotys) went and got her because they wanted a slave. That's what she was," said Robert Woolverton, a 27-year retired veteran of the Seattle Police Department who has known Eldon Doty since Doty's days at the police academy three decades ago. "They thought she was poor enough and dumb enough to go along with it. They thought they would have her totally under their thumb."
In her months of service to the Dotys, Helen was a housecleaner-cook-gardener-launderer-laborer-beautician all rolled into one - what in the Philippines is called a "katulong," the Tagalog word that translates into "helper" but is generally understood to mean "servant."
Her duties included tending the premises, washing the Dotys' two cars, bathing the Dotys' two dogs, washing and ironing clothes, cooking and cleaning up, and providing manicures, pedicures and hot-oil treatments for Sally.
Helen's daily routine began early and ended late. Like katulongs in the Philippines, she had no official work hours or days off; she was expected to work or be on call to work at all times. The Dotys gave her a "spending allowance" of $300 a month, which they reduced to $140 a month, Helen says, after deducting money for her health and car insurances.
Eventually, the Dotys stopped paying her altogether after Helen got a wage job. The Dotys took away her passport and told her if she ever told anybody about the sham marriage, they would deport her.
The Dotys claim they were helping Helen by taking her out of poverty and bringing her to the U.S. But even the federal attorneys with whom the Dotys would eventually cooperate state the Dotys "orchestrated a sham marriage scheme for the purpose of procuring an illegal maid."
Helen sneaks away
In February, 1993, after 2 1/2 years of working for the Dotys, Helen fled the Doty home. She moved in with a boyfriend, Pudieno "Jing" Clemente, who had come from the same Philippine province, and whom she had met in Redmond through new acquaintances.
The Dotys feared Helen might inadvertently leak word of the sham marriage to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Marriage fraud, a felony, carries maximum penalties of five years in prison or a $250,000 fine.
The Dotys pre-empted her. They turned her in to the INS. They sought immunity in exchange for information that could be used to deport their former servant. The INS tacitly agreed and, in 1995, began deportation proceedings. The Dotys, eager to get her out of the country as quickly and quietly as possible, diligently cooperated with the INS.
But Helen wanted to stay in the U.S. With Woolverton's and Clemente's help, she resisted the deportation. Her story was pieced together from interviews with her, the Dotys and their friends, and from INS and court documents, including a lengthy affidavit from Doty, who admitted the fraud and now says the whole thing was "a terrible mistake."
The deportation became mired in the courts. In the interim, Helen and Clemente married, had two children and bought a home on the outskirts of Redmond.
Now the case has wound down to its final stage. Helen Clemente was arrested by the INS on May 13 and spent 78 days in jail before a federal judge ruled that she was unlawfully detained. She was released Thursday but still faces a standing deportation order.
The INS began processing travel documents for her transport abroad, even as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week granted a temporary stay. This will hold off deportation for another month.
Helen's attorney, Bernice Funk, will try to convince the courts that Helen should be granted a waiver on the grounds that she was represented by an incompetent attorney at her original deportation hearing, a contention that is backed by the Washington State Bar Association.
In addition, Funk argues, Helen has been a model resident and is now joined in a true marriage to a U.S. citizen with whom she has two citizen daughters. Her deportation would traumatize the family.
Meanwhile, the Dotys, who sold their Redmond estate last year and moved into a $495,000 home in Santa Rosa, Calif., remain legally unscathed. Neither the INS nor the U.S. attorney has pursued charges against them.
Leaders in the local Filipino- American community have protested the double standard in prosecuting marriage-fraud cases. INS officials admit that U.S.-citizen spouses in marriage frauds are rarely prosecuted. In most cases, the INS' sole intent is to deport the foreigner spouse.
"If we're going to have any kind of justice, the Dotys should be placed on trial. They need to be held accountable for what they've done," said state Rep. Velma Veloria, D-Seattle, a Filipino American. "They (the Dotys) did all this to `help' this woman? Give me a break. Look at what this woman has gone through. Now they're trying to break up the family."
Home, but for how long?
Helen Clemente is back home in Redmond for the first time in 2 1/2 months. She is joyous one moment, grief-stricken the next. She speaks with a heavy accent, her voice barely audible at times.
She says she could handle sharing a cell with nine other detainees, the prison garb, even the shackles around her ankles. Never mind that she lost her job as a deli clerk at the Sammamish Heights Safeway. The unbearable part was being separated from her daughters, Jinnelen, 5, and Cassandra, 3.
"I had never been away from my kids since they were born," she says.
But Helen knows the 78-day separation may be only a precursor of what is to come. If she is deported, she'll be barred from ever returning to the U.S., meaning the family would be permanently broken or Pudieno and the kids would move to the Philippines, where they would most likely live in poverty.
Pudieno would have to leave his job of 10 years as a line inspector at an Eastside aerospace company. The couple would lose their house. And Helen would end up exactly where she started 10 years ago - on her parents' rice farm in the province of Tarlac in central Luzon.
There, the family lived in a concrete-block home with no plumbing. The nearest town, Paniqui, was 15 miles away with nothing in between but fields and water buffalos.
Before coming to America, this was the life she was destined for.
Helen was the oldest of five children. As such, she was expected to help support the family. She finished 10th grade, worked in a snack-foods factory, then got a job as a domestic helper for a Chinese family living in Brunei. Four years later she found herself back on her parents' farm with no savings and few prospects. For years, she asked friends and relatives in the U.S. to find her an American pen pal. She sought any connection to the land of dreams.
One day she heard some rich relatives in America were looking for a maid. She expressed interest. Through family members, Helen and the Dotys began exchanging letters.
In March 1989, the Dotys traveled to the Philippines to meet Helen for the first time.
`I trusted Sally and Eldon'
Sally Doty came from the same province as Helen, and even attended the same high school. Sally Doty, too, was from a farming family, but everyone knew she would not stay on the farm; she was too ambitious. In 1980, in a span of a few months, she met and married a tall, blonde, sweet-talking, self-deprecating American vacationing in the Philippines, Eldon Doty.
Two years earlier, he had divorced his first wife of 13 years, and left the Seattle Police Department on a stress-related medical retirement. He continues to receive disability benefits.
Doty had been recruited by SPD in 1966 straight out of the University of Washington. Doty characterized his 12 years on the force, in which he attained the rank of patrol officer, as "a failure," a sentiment shared by his colleagues.
He was a misfit, too wishy-washy, and not amenable to authority. He really wanted to be an artist, and, indeed, went on to become a highly successful illustrator of books with titles like "Cowboy Cal" and "Alf: A Day at the Fair."
He kept in contact with only one person from the Seattle Police Department, his last sergeant, Robert Woolverton. The two had become good friends. The Dotys introduced Woolverton to his future wife, June, a high-school classmate of Sally's in the Philippines. The Woolvertons "buddied around" with the Dotys.
In April, 1989, Eldon and Sally bought their home in The Estates at Thornbury, an exclusive housing development in the northeastern part of town. The Dotys shared their excitement with friends. They told the Woolvertons they were going to acquire a maid from the Philippines. When the Woolvertons inquired further, Robert said, the Dotys deflected their questions.
A month earlier, the Dotys had traveled to the Philippines to meet Helen for the first time. Through subsequent conversations and letters, the couple shared their plan with Helen. Helen knew the plan violated the law but went along with it, she said, because she wanted to come to the U.S. and she trusted the Dotys.
In an affidavit she described what happened:
"The Dotys told me that because of the U.S. immigration law, the Dotys planned that I marry Eldon Doty (on paper) so I could work and live in America. I trusted Sally and Eldon Doty, and they made arrangements for me to live in Manila, while the Dotys arranged the INS paperwork.
"I was instructed to receive Eldon Doty's love letters. I received about 200 love letters - and wrote back maybe 100 love letters, as I was told. It was difficult writing the letters. I did not want to make the Dotys mad.
"I was instructed to send my birth certificate to Eldon and Sally Doty in the U.S. which I did. The Dotys instructed me to, and paid for me to, change my middle name so that U.S. Immigration would not suspect that I was a relative of Sally Doty. Another of Sally Doty's sisters, Imelda, worked for the municipality of Paniqui, and Imelda helped me change my birth certificate.
"I came to the U.S. on August 15, 1990, and lived in the home of Eldon and Sally Doty as their maid."
A Spanish tradition
The katulong practice is commonplace in the Philippines. Historians have traced its origins back hundreds of years to the time of Spanish colonization, when native Filipinos were made into a servant class under their Spanish colonizers. Filipinos eventually ousted their colonizers but kept the practice.
Typically, those who use katulongs are educated, middle- to upper-class, and live in towns and cities. Katulongs are almost always from poor, rural areas. Often the katulongs are related in some way to the families they serve.
Katulongs are not always treated cruelly; many work their way out of servitude into better positions in society. Sometimes employers even help their katulongs into better lives.
But the practice is not regulated. Each katulong is at the mercy of his or her employer. Many are paid pennies or paid nothing in exchange for room and board. Abuse and exploitation are rampant. Reformers in the Philippines call the practice a modern-day form of slavery.
Like many practitioners in the Philippines, the Dotys say they were helping Helen.
Sally Doty said Eldon over the years has helped her extended family in the Philippines to the amount of $200,000 to pay for debts, medical expenses and even a large family house in Paniqui.
"He is worshipped there," she says. Both she and Eldon say they were trying to help Helen in exchange for her "doing things around the house."
"Despite all the tears and claims of exploitation, (Helen) would gladly do it again in a heartbeat," said Eldon Doty. "Ten years ago she had nothing, no money, no house, no education and worst of all she had no future. . . . When you have nothing, anything is an improvement."
The Dotys told their Redmond neighbors that Helen was an exchange student; they told some friends, such as the Woolvertons, she was a relative. But when Robert Woolverton saw how the Dotys were treating her, he told Eldon, "You don't treat relatives like that. You don't treat anybody like that."
The Dotys did not confine Helen to their home; they gave her some freedoms, feeling she was too daunted by them to run away or report them. And the Dotys reminded Helen of their power to have her deported.
They let her use one of their cars, take some classes, even get a job at Wendy's and then Safeway. But she was expected to continue her duties at the house in addition to her wage job. She was able to send some money back home to her parents.
In letters to the Philippines, she did not disclose how hard her life was because she knew life was even harder back home. But she began confiding in June Woolverton about the way she was treated in the Doty household. June told her husband. The Woolvertons did not need to hear it from Helen; they saw it themselves whenever they came to the Doty home.
"It was mostly Sally; Eldon was not as bad," Robert Woolverton said. "She would boss Helen around in a very gruff manner. It was `Helen, bring me this, Helen bring me that.' We'd be there talking to Sally, and she'd tell Helen to comb her hair. It was embarrassing to me how she was treated."
The Dotys said the arrangement they and Helen agreed on was that Helen would stay with the couple for three years. Helen said the agreement was for 10 years, but that the Dotys made allusions to keeping her into their old age.
Over time, Helen came to realize from talking with people like the Woolvertons and studying American culture that other ways of living were available to her, that in fact she was being exploited.
She also fell in love.
Helen was under strict orders not to date. When the Dotys found out Helen had secretly been seeing Pudieno Clemente, they were incensed, locked her in the house and told her they were going to deport her, Helen said. The Dotys said they were angry and afraid that word of the fraud would get out.
One late evening in February 1993, Helen snuck out of the house to a waiting car, and Clemente drove her away. Eldon Doty almost immediately filed for divorce, and seven months later, Eldon and Helen divorced.
The Woolvertons eventually learned the true nature of the Dotys' arrangement with Helen. The Woolvertons offered their support to Helen during deportation proceedings. Robert Woolverton, in an affidavit filed on Helen's behalf, said: "The scheme of Eldon and Sally Doty shocks the conscience of right-thinking people."
INS `prioritizes' enforcement
The INS typically issues 10,000 fiance visas a year to foreigners planning to marry Americans. Some INS officials estimate that up to one-third of these marriages may involve fraud, but only 80 to 100 annually are prosecuted. Only in extreme cases, such as a serial offender, are the American spouses indicted.
"Ninety percent of the time, the government prefers cooperation from the U.S.-citizen spouse. The goal is to get rid of the alien," says Seattle immigration attorney Dan Danilov.
The INS admits as much, although it is not eager to spread the word that most citizen spouses get away scot-free. "You have to prioritize your law enforcement," said INS spokeswoman Irene Mortensen.
From the time the INS became aware of Helen Clemente's case, it focused only on deporting her. The Dotys - educated, monied, sophisticated and articulate - did a good job shifting attention away from themselves and onto their former servant.
As in Eldon and Helen's divorce in September 1993, Eldon Doty simply overpowered Helen legally. He knew how to work the system; Helen did not have a clue. Helen asked for only four things in their divorce: her passport, a car, her personal belongings and $3,600 of her savings that Eldon had confiscated.
She could not afford a divorce attorney. She got nothing, not even her passport or belongings.
During her deportation hearing in February 1998, Helen was represented by an immigration attorney, Grosvenor Anschell, who five years earlier had represented Eldon Doty in his attempt to gain immunity from the INS after turning Helen in.
Helen was unaware of Anschell's prior involvement with Doty until the night before her hearing. By that time, it was too late to find another attorney. Doty filed a grievance and got the court to agree that Anschell would not cross-examine Doty during the hearing.
The result was that Anschell did not present a strong case on Helen's behalf. This was the conclusion of the Washington State Bar Association, which investigated Anschell and is considering taking action against him. Anschell has been disbarred in two other jurisdictions for previous offenses.
The short of it, says Bernice Funk, Helen's attorney, is that Helen Clemente has never had a fair hearing. Once all the facts are presented and the true nature of the marriage scheme is revealed, Funk says, she is confident the courts will grant a waiver. "She just wants her day in court," Funk says.
In the past, the INS has granted waivers in situations where U.S. citizen spouses or children would suffer from a relative's deportation. The immigration reform laws of 1996, which cracked down on illegal immigration, however, made such waivers harder to get.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Pickrell, representing the INS, wrote in a recent motion:
"Refusing to accept any personal responsibility for her decadelong deceit of both the Philippine and U.S. governments, (Helen) Clemente attempts to place all blame on Mr. Doty, attorney Anschell, and `unfair' decisions by the Immigration Court and the INS. This strategy fails.
"Helen Clemente's goose was cooked long before she retained attorney Grosvenor Anschell. The deportation case against her was overwhelming. . . . She is not entitled to any relief from deportation, and she (like the Dotys) should consider herself fortunate not to have been indicted for criminal misconduct."
Every day will count
Bringing Helen to the U.S. was a "terrible mistake," Eldon Doty now says. But he seems more concerned about the embarrassment and legal fallout that may result from this story.
Helen this weekend will be celebrating her homecoming with Pudieno and their two daughters. Today is Cassandra's third birthday, and the Clementes will do what families do on such occasions. There will be a cake, maybe even a party. There will be lots of noise, lots of laughing and rejoicing.
Every day will count. The stay of deportation expires Sept. 2. The family has one month more to be together at home.
Alex Tizon's phone message number is 206-464-2216. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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