Immigration lawyers warn would-be TNTs: ‘Bill is not for you’By Cristina DC Pastor
A dear friend from way back is trying his luck in New York, crafting a life that is enticing and full of creative adventure, also a future that is legally uncertain. What’s for sure is he is not going anywhere. He is staying at a cousin’s house in Queens while looking for a job, appearing to test the limits of his kin’s patience.
What are your plans, I asked when we met for coffee.
“My visitor’s visa has expired,” he said. “I’m looking for a job and staying. Anyway, there’s an immigration bill that might be passed…” My friend is now officially a TNT, or ‘tago ng tago,’ a Tagalog term to mean someone who is hiding from the law.
First time I heard that remark, but not the last. Another friend’s son emailed recently to say he would like to come to New York. This college senior was more brazen. “Tita, pwede kaya ako dun sa amnesty bill ni Obama?”
I didn’t think pending legislation was intended to create a new class of undocumented immigrants. I didn’t want to sound judgmental and presumptive so I went to Facebook to seek out a reasoned and more precise response from the legal minds within our community.
“It should not cover them,” said lawyer Merit Salud, co-founder of the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “The remedial measure being proposed to overhaul the Immigration law should cover only those undocumented (immigrants) who have been residents of America from a certain date to a certain date.”
“Those late comers should not be allowed to avail of the law,” said Salud.
He further explained that even those who are covered by the yet-to-be-defined prescriptive period are not necessarily shoo-ins for immigration relief. The ideal candidates are immigrants who are gainfully employed, have been paying taxes and have no criminal record, among other conditions, he said.
Immigration lawyer Rio Guerrero said it’s impossible to predict what the new law is going to look like. But he said there is likely to be a cutoff date, and that date would apply to the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country.
“In all likelihood there will be a residency/presence requirement that will preclude people from entering the U.S. now and then violating their stay in order to take advantage of comprehensive immigration reform (bill),” he said.
“It’s dangerous to play that game of overstaying,” he said. “Especially if the new law does not help you.”
The idea of Filipinos coming to the United States at this time while a new immigration bill is being hammered out is nothing new. Guerrero said he’s heard of similar tales.
“These people are risk takers,” he said. “If they overstay, there’s a chance they won’t be able to come back.”
Both lawyers are confident an immigration reform law will pass if not this year at least within the next four years of President Obama’s second term.
“This summer there will be something on the President’s desk,” said Guerrero. “The Republicans have so much to gain (from immigration legislation), and the Democrats promised this.”
Salud noted how all over America, there are rallies, meetings, prayer group sessions, seminars, dialogues, conferences and town hall meetings being held to discuss immigration reform.
“A new sense of beginning is in the air,” he said. “A gentle breeze or sense of healing is softly and slowly being felt by one and all coming as it is from nowhere yet everywhere, hopeful of the momentum of the moment.”
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