Thousands of undocumented Filipinos living in the United States must have been dismayed by President Barack Obama’s sensational immigration relief. I’m sure they were expecting a much broader immigration reform.
They thought for awhile that the contents of the Executive Order of the President on immigration will pave the way for their citizenship, or at least for them to become permanent residents.
The order as it turned out is just a temporary relief. It will not even provide healthcare benefits to undocumented immigrants. It is still up to the Republican dominated Congress to pass legislation to overhaul the country’s immigration policies.
Some Filipinos here in Orange country said Obama’s immigration program for the undocumented is far too limited.
Although the Obama immigration relief is temporary, I hope it will eventually compel Congress to act on the comprehensive immigration reform bill to provide lasting solution to America’ s flawed immigration policies.
Under the new immigration program contained in the Executive Order recently signed by President Obama, qualified aliens will be given works permits, driver’s license and a three year protection from deportation, provided they pass criminal background checks and pay back taxes.
It will also delay the deportation of undocumented parents of children who are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The new immigration law will also protect children brought in illegally by their parents in America before January 1, 2010.
However, these privileges being given to undocumented immigrants who qualify under the new government program, are only good for three years and is revocable, although that part was not clear as it was not specified how these benefits intended for these aliens can be revoked. My interpretation is that a work permit that will be given to a qualified alien is only good for three years.
While some undocumented Filipinos will benefit from the Obama relief, many undocumented Filipinos will be left out and will continue to live in fear of being arrested and put in deportation proceedings. This is because most of them, if not all, came to the U.S. by themselves and have left their families in the Philippines. Most of these Filipinos who would be left out in the program are working in restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes and board and care facilities for the elderly.
While they wait and hope for a more broader and sweeping immigration reform that will eventually grant them the legitimacy to live here in the United States, these undocumented Filipinos will continue to work even without legal papers as long as they don’t get caught because that’s the only way that they can help their families cope with the high cost of living in the Philippines.
My heart goes to these Filipinos who have endured hardships and loneliness here in America, particularly this coming holiday season. I hope that someday all of them will be able to achieve their dreams of becoming legal here in America and later on be reunited with their families after years of long separation.
As I write this column, I am expecting calls from my relatives inviting me to their traditional Thanksgiving lunch or dinner. We Filipinos here in America celebrate Thanksgiving Day as a way of expressing our gratitude to God for all the blessings that He has given us. Based on Thanksgiving tradition here in America, the family lunch or dinner consists of roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy and pumpkin or pecan pies.
But among Filipinos, the roasted pig (lechon) is usually the main attraction in the dining area whether Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s day.
I have been writing this column for a while and I have not been able to express my gratitude to my good friend Rhony Laigo, for giving me an opportunity to be a columnist in this paper. Thank you very much Rhony and happy Thanksgivings to you and to Ruth and the kids. (Likewise, and to all of the readers of Weekend Balita – ed.)