FilAms urge Duterte to ‘lift a finger,’ help immigrants facing deportation
By Cristina DC Pastor
Gnawing fear over Donald Trump’s threat of massive deportations has thrown the immigrant community into panic as Filipinos criticize President Rodrigo Duterte’s apparent insensitivity toward those in danger of being removed from the U.S.
Duterte has urged undocumented Filipino immigrants to “better be on the right track” or “get out” because “if you are caught and deported, I will not lift a finger…I will not interfere.”
The Philippine Embassy and consulates estimate more than 300,000 undocumented Filipinos calculated based on 10 percent of the total FilAm population of 3.4 million. Immigration lawyers and advocates believe the number is much bigger and could reach a million people.
“Ang yabang, akala ko ba para sa Pilipino ka,” cried a family man from Queens denouncing Duterte’s statement. A retired teacher from the NYC Department of Education said, she is not surprised. “We all know his ability for refined speech is not there.”
The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (Nafcon) called on the Philippine government to “justly support its Filipino citizens abroad.”
“We would like to remind President Duterte that Filipino immigrants abroad, regardless of immigration status, must be served by the Philippine government,” said Nafcon in a statement. “
NAFCON called for consulates in the U.S. to provide “Know Your Rights” trainings to the Filipino community and free legal services to immigrants facing deportation.
Photojournalist Troi Santos appeared to be in favor, asking if “it is against any U.S. law if the Philippine government will provide free legal assistance to Filipinos abroad.” After all, he said, Filipinos, including those awaiting a pathway to citizenship, remit “substantial” amount of money that keeps the Philippine economy sustainable.
“Don’t bite the hand that feeds,” Santos said.
Yves Nibungco of Migrante New Jersey would like to see Philippine consulates “exhausting all means” to protect Filipinos in the United States.
“They can do that by ensuring the Filipinos in deportation proceedings have legal representation, whether this is through shouldering legal fees or by providing credible pro-bono lawyers,” he said when reached by The FilAm.
Free legal representation might seem a bit much because of the number of undocumented immigrants looking to be served, and also because it would give the impression that a foreign government is interfering in domestic procedures. Consul General Tess Dizon-De Vega in New York has said the consulate is opening its doors to Filipinos seeking legal assistance and advice.
If the immigrant has committed a serious crime, like murder or drugs trafficking, it might be a reason for the Philippine president not to stand in the way, said the retired teacher who requested anonymity for this article.
Overstaying a visa is considered a violation of the law, she said, but if the immigrant has been a good taxpayer, not a liability to the government, has a family with young children, then “for humanitarian reasons, the president must help.”
Duterte has an obligation to the Filipino people, regardless whether they are undocumented in the United States or not, argued Nibungco. “He must recognize the reasons why Filipinos are forced to migrate to the United States and become undocumented because of the lack of opportunities back in the Philippines. He should not only lift a finger but rather move heaven and earth to assist Filipinos facing deportation.”