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June 17, 2019 - My uncle's daughter is the petitioner in Beaumont California (father and daughter relationship). Before my uncle left the daughter's house, He asks for his Philippine passport and U.S. alien-green-card but the daughter didn't give my uncle's IDs. So my uncle left together with his brother to live permanently in Vallejo, California. How can my uncle get his passport and green card back?

Update - July 06, 2019 My uncle and his brother went back to Beaumont and called a Police Officer to help out to get my uncle's personal ID's but my uncle's daughter didn't give back his ID's (Philippine passport, & Alien/green-card). Her reason to the police officer was since she was the petitioner, she is responsible for his dad (my uncle) and the only he can get it back his ID's is when he return's to the Philippines for good.

  1. Can we file in the city of Beaumont for small claims court to get his personal property back?
  2. What are the procedures to file? What forms do we need to use?
  3. My uncle is not fluent in English speaking, can we request a translator?

Thank you in advance for all your help.

  • 11
    Unfortunately, replacing a green card is expensive -- $455. It's generally better to keep it in one's personal possession at all times (in fact there is a law that requires it). It's not necessary for a green card holder to have a passport, however, so unless your uncle intends to travel to another country then he can wait to replace that. – phoog Jun 17 at 21:39
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    For the record, Beaumont is in the south southeast desert along I-10 near the Mexican border. Vallejo is in NorCal north of Oakland. About a 7 hour drive between them assuming no traffic. – Harper Jun 18 at 16:16
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    This really struck a nerve for me, I'm not from California but I've had this happen to me before and it's painful/dehumanising to say the least. A relative of mine decided that it was "in their right" to withhold my personal documents (birth-certificate, passport, student-id) to prevent me from travelling, I asked them politely and when they refused again I picked up the phone and called the police. Said relative was quickly ordered to return my documents or they'd be arrested for theft. They returned the documents and stopped speaking to me. If I were you I'd advise him to do the same. – LogicalBranch Jun 18 at 17:00
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    In addition to my previous comment, I'd warn you that calling the police on any relative is the personal equivalent of nuclear warfare. There is no going back from this. Sure I got my documents back but I've "lost" several relatives because of that phone call. Only advise your uncle to call the police if your cousin absolutely refuses to hand back the documents. I hope you give us an update to let us know how your doing. Good luck. – LogicalBranch Jun 18 at 17:00
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    @LogicalBranch To be fair, keeping hostage or destroying the personal documents of an other person is already nuclear warfare... I'd not want to have any form of relationship with somebody that did this to me. – Bakuriu Jun 19 at 18:58
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Stop asking around on internet now.

Your uncle needs to talk to his daughter and get his Green Card (this should be possible seeing how she is is daughter?!).
If that doesn't work right away, police must be involved without much delay, but your uncle should first consult an immigration lawyer because there are several traps he can step on.

A Green card can be revoked for several reasons (some well-known and obvious, some not so obvious --- therefore consult an immigration lawyer). Among these are misusing the Green card, committing crime and abandoning a permanent residence. So, it is of utmost importance to be 100% sure you are on the positive side for these before making it official with the police. Once you made something official there is no going back!
You know, just be sure you'll not shoot your foot. Lawyer up.

USCIS tells you that you are required to carry your Green Card at all times. So, not having one is troublesome and may result in it being withdrawn if you are accidentially caught. Because, well, you're acting against the law. That's a problem.

The fact that there is no good reason to not hand the Green Card that is legitimately yours to you, other than to e.g. traffic people into the country with it, which is clearly a "misuse", further shows that trouble may be ahead. Or why would one otherwise do that (plus, keep the passport). Coyotes regularly do such things to blackmail people, and it's clearly in the realm of "illegal". That's a problem.

This situation must be resolved, and it must be done either secretly and amicably, and quick... or by a trained, specialized professional who makes sure the blame is not with your uncle.

  • 4
    "valid Green Card in your possession at all times". I don't think they mean you should carry it around like a drivers license (I know from experience :)). Also if it was taken away from the uncle, then he has a valid reason. – likejudo Jun 18 at 13:27
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    @likejudo it sure sounds like it should be a reasonable version of "close", like a driver's license. You know exactly what that is. If you're on private property it should be somewhere reasonable on that same property, e.g. in your gym locker at the gym, or in your cabin or office safe at the resort. When you are not on private property, it should be on you. What, do some people just leave it at home during their jaunts around town? Small town maybe... – Harper Jun 18 at 16:10
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    @likejudo They really do mean at all times. 8 USC 1304(e) states: "Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him pursuant to subsection (d). Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both." – NetworkLlama Jun 18 at 21:05
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    @NetworkLlama an 'alien registration card' is not a green card. law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1304 – likejudo Jun 20 at 17:19
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    @likejudo 8 USC 1304(a) directs the AG and SecState to register all aliens and to provide them with certificate or card describing their status. The green card falls under this. Also: "An alien registration card is the official name for the identification card given to lawful permanent residents by the USCIS to identify them as such. Other names for the alien registration card include green card, permanent resident card, and permanent visa." law.cornell.edu/wex/alien_registration_card_%28arc%29 – NetworkLlama Jun 20 at 20:56
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The green card should always be at hand

Yeah, he can't do that. He needs a green card in his possession anytime he's not on private property. Obviously for instance leaving it in the gym locker while you're at the gym is ok, but no, you can't dash off to the grocery store without it, on the logic that it's "just in town". Just like I can't make a milk run without my driver's license. So this idea of dashing off on a 400 mile adventure, is Right Out.

He should have absolutely refused to travel without the documents in hand. If they say "get off the property or we'll call the cops", then tell the cops "I can't leave without my passport/green card" which the cops will back up, because they know the law and they know how trafficking works.

The right to strut around the USA without any ID at all is reserved for US citizens only, and even that is being stripped away by ever-changing laws.

Those documents are someone else's property

The Green Card is the property of the USA and is not hers to steal. The passport is the property of the Philippine government and is not hers to steal. She didn't take your stuff, she took theirs. So she is guilty of a Federal crime, and the long arm of Philippine law may have an "opinion" on the matter also.

Of course, most people don't think of it that way. They think your ID is your property so they think they're only messing with you.

I would absolutely, positively report theft of the passport to the Philippine consulate. (Or rather, just report a missing passport, and be free about explaining the circumstances). One might hope that a phone call to consular staff might scare her straight, and get her to send it along. Most likely the green card would be in there also. Or, he could pay the fees to have a replacement passport issued.

However the important one is the Green Card, since that establishes your right to be in the USA. On that one, you must consult an immigration lawyer and find out what you need to do. You certainly can get replacement green cards (not cheap), but admitting you don't have yours could cause you problems.

People often seize documents for a reason

And what makes me think that is, the uncle is a grown adult and the daughter's elder, and I thought that meant something in the Philippines. He is supposed to be more adult and more responsible. As such, he should be responsible for his own documents. Yet, this seems to be in the daughter's hands; this raises red flags.

Maybe what she did was a harmless prank. But usually, taking an immigrant's documents is done for an entirely evil reason. Either they are forcing them into indentured servitude (also called "trafficking") - so if he is now in a situation where he is being extorted to do work in a worse situation or worse wage than he'd take willingly, then he is a trafficking victim, and the taking documents is part of the plot. The US has some legal protections for trafficking victims.

Or they are "setting him up" for failure in some other way - for instance, out of idle malice, the niece might be planning to call immigration and report him as being illegal, hoping he'd be found with no green card, and deported for not having it.

  • 5
    could also be that the daughter tries to correct (in her eyes) problematic behaviour of the uncle, e.g. wasting money on holiday trips when he promised to send it to his relatives etc. It's obviously not the "right" way to deal with it, but I would see more possible reasons for doing something like that which are neither evil in spirit (though misguided) nor a stupid prank. But wild speculations about the reasons don't help. I'd stick with what we know. – Frank Hopkins Jun 19 at 0:23
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    @FrankHopkins well that still sounds like trafficking, just the traffickers think they get a free pass because it's family. So it sounds to me like normal evil plus an extra scoop of delusional entitlement... just the very fact that a daughter would mistreat her elder tells me how off the rails they are... – Harper Jun 19 at 0:41
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    elders aren't always right or more grown up than youngsters and trying to make someone stay in some location for his own benefit / benefit of the family has nothing to do with trafficking in my book, unless you want to say it's against the law to take his ID, which yes, it sure would be. If you lock away an alcoholic parent's drinks or take his/her car keys when they are drunk, it's not lawful and potentially a bad strategy, but far from generally evil. – Frank Hopkins Jun 19 at 0:54
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    @FrankHopkins maybe. But I am just having trouble in my mind's eye imagining how someone capable enough of emigrating in the first place (not a low bar) and getting a green card, and elucidating desire to have his travel docs, which is correct in fairness and law... Would need the family to protect his travel docs from himself. – Harper Jun 19 at 1:00
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    I disagree on the first point. The risk and consequences of losing a green card are much more severe then being caught without one. Even if you get caught: worst case is the fine you a few bucks. That's much less than the replacement cost of are card. I was a Green Card holder for over 10 years and only carried it for international travel. Otherwise it stayed securely at home. Never had a problem with it. – Hilmar Jun 20 at 12:16
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It might be sufficient to have a lawyer draft a letter asking for the return of the documents; many people become much more reasonable after seeing something in writing that spells out what laws they are breaking and what the likely consequences are.

Filing a police report may become necessary, but might not be the best way to ensure that the documents are returned in a timely manner.

  • Update - July 06, 2019 My uncle and his brother went back to Beaumont and called a Police Officer to help out to get my uncle's personal ID's but my uncle's daughter didn't give back his ID's (Philippine passport, & Alien/green-card). Her reason to the police officer was since she was the petitioner, she is responsible for his dad (my uncle) and the only he can get it back his ID's is when he return's to the Philippines for good. What are the procedures to file in small claims court? What forms do we need to use? Thank you in advance for all your help. – gemini Jul 6 at 21:46
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    You need to talk to a lawyer and add a complaint against the police officer. – arp Jul 7 at 4:16
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A necessary first step in such a situation is filing a police report in the town where the withholding/theft occurred (or is suspected to have occurred.) Generally, a complainant can do this by visiting a police station and being interviewed by an officer. Once the report is taken, a few possible outcomes might occur:

  1. The police visit the person suspected of holding the documents, and persuade them to give them back.
  2. The police visit the person suspected of holding the documents, but are convinced (either rightly or wrongly) that the suspect does not actually have the documents.
  3. The police do not bother to visit the person suspected of holding the documents due to other, more pressing matters.

In scenario 1, the complainant will get their documents back. In scenario 2 or 3, the complainant will have to get their documents replaced by their home country and/or the United States. The procedure for the replacement of lost or stolen documents often requires the filing of a police report, so with either one of these outcomes, filing a police report is necessary.

  • Update - July 06, 2019 My uncle and his brother went back to Beaumont and called a Police Officer to help out to get my uncle's personal ID's but my uncle's daughter didn't give back his ID's (Philippine passport, & Alien/green-card). Her reason to the police officer was since she was the petitioner, she is responsible for his dad (my uncle) and the only he can get it back his ID's is when he return's to the Philippines for good. What are the procedures to file in small claims court? What forms do we need to use? Thank you in advance for all your help. – gemini Jul 6 at 21:46

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