TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - The announcement that former Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter died Sunday sent a stir through the halls of government in Washington, D.C., but word of the fiercely independent lawmaker's death also drew strong emotion in the halls of a doctor's office in Linton, Ind.
"I couldn't help but cry," said Paul Esguerra, M.D.
Dr. Esguerra first met Senator Specter in the early 1980s, when he was fighting deportation from the United States.
Esguerra and his wife first moved to the United States from the Philippines in 1975. After attending medical school and completing his residency, Dr. Esguerra began seeing patients in the small town of New Salem, Penn.
Though Esguerra hoped the new work would help support his growing family, it also violated the terms of his visa.
"I didn't know at the time … I made a mistake in working without the permission of the Immigration and Naturalization Service at that time," Esguerra said.
When Esguerra contacted the INS, he was told he and his wife would have to leave the country. His American-born children, however, would be allowed to stay.
"We had three days left to sell our house and my car," Esguerra said. "Our plan was to leave my son, who was four-and-a-half years old, with our church in Uniontown Pennsylvania."
The Esguerras' neighbors set out to prevent the deportation, collecting hundreds of signatures, according to newspaper reports from the time.
Soon, a producer with a Pittsburg television station learned of the story and contacted Senator Specter's office, Esguerra said. In the weeks that followed, Specter sponsored and passed a bill that would allow Esguerra's family to remain in the United States. In return, Specter asked that the Esguerras work hard to be successful in the United States, something they believe they have done.
"I have raised two children … two lawyers," Esguerra said. "(One) is also a doctor and also an obstetrician-gynecologist in Fort Wayne, Indiana."
The Esguerras have also become U.S. citizens, and Dr. Esguerra said he is grateful for the chance to work in "the heart of America." In particular, he said he is grateful to Senator Specter.
"I will always be grateful for him and his family as long as I live," Esguerra said. "Peace be with them, the family of Joan Specter, their two sons and their families."
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