An activist who was detained Tuesday after entering the U.S. at San Francisco International Airport this week for a speaking tour addressing a human rights crisis in the Philippines was denied entry and sent back to Manila, according to his colleagues.
Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba was scheduled to arrive at SFO around 8 p.m. Tuesday, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents detained him. Aba’s friends spent hours waiting for him outside the international arrivals terminal, uncertain of what happened.
When they learned that Aba had been denied entry, they launched a protest on short notice, bringing banners and a sound system to the airport demanding that Aba be allowed into the country, or at least allowed access to legal representation through National Lawyers Guild personnel who went to the airport to help.
They even launched a hashtag, #AllowJeromeEntry, that was used in dozens of tweets and retweets within the activist community.
Nonetheless, early Thursday morning Aba boarded a flight back to Manila around 12:30 a.m., according to Terry Valen, a spokesman for the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.
“That was ridiculous,” Valen said, later describing the incident as a human rights violation at SFO.
“They held him for more than 24 hours,” Valen said. “Basically it’s illegal detention.
According to him, they told Aba there was a “glitch” with his visa.
Customs officials said they were prohibited from discussing Aba’s case specifically when asked for more information on Wednesday, citing privacy laws, but said that country of origin and human rights activism are not determining factors in cases like his.
It is unclear at this time if and when Aba will attempt to travel to the U.S. again.