What Obama started, Congress must finish, urge immigration advocates

Romeo Ymalay of Kaya: Filipino Americans for Progress

Romeo Ymalay of Kaya: Filipino Americans for Progress

By Maricar CP Hampton

While President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration was well received by the Filipino community, many of its leaders continue to urge Congress to pass a law that would provide a more permanent solution to the broken immigration system.

“This is undoubtedly big news for our community,” said Romeo Ymalay, Co-Chair of Kaya: Filipino Americans for Progress. “Many Filipino Americans experience first-hand the tremendous difficulties caused by our current system. But President Obama’s action is only the first step. Much more needs to be done to finally fix our broken and unjust immigration system.”

Kaya is calling on Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law that will, among other provisions, provide a clear path to citizenship, and recognize the importance of keeping families together by addressing the current backlog in family visas.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimates there are 270,000 undocumented Filipino immigrants in the U.S. today.

The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) National Chairman JT Mallonga, called Obama’s executive action a “bold decision” and a “step forward” in alleviating the plight of millions of undocumented immigrants.

NaFFAA National Chairman JT Mallonga

NaFFAA National Chairman JT Mallonga

“We wholeheartedly support President Obama’s executive action that provides immigration relief to undocumented immigrants who have made significant contributions to this country, and yet have been denied access to the same opportunities that Americans enjoy,” Mallonga said.

He added, however, that “Congress must finish the job and work with the President in passing a comprehensive, bipartisan bill. The U.S. Senate passed one more than a year ago, with 68 senators from both parties voting for it. It’s up to the House leadership to do the right thing, now.”
The Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) calls the presidential overreach “historical and transformative”

“President Obama has reaffirmed once more that this nation is a nation of immigrants that our immigration system should be about family, unity, economic opportunity, fairness and equality,” said MHC Executive Director Arnedo Valera. “His executive action should not be seen as an ‘all cure’ to our defective immigration system but an immediate and practical immigration relief to millions of undocumented immigrants.”

MHC believes that Filipinos, especially the highly skilled, will benefit from the executive action.

“The expanded exercise of prosecutorial discretion also lays down the foundation of the granting of deferred action to thousands of Filipino teachers who lost their immigration status to no fault of their own and as well as undocumented Filipinos who are no longer in lawful immigration status,” Valera continued.

The Philippine Forum in New York said Obama’s executive order is a significant development, but the “roots of being undocumented immigrants are still not being addressed.”

“We must also remember and still be cognizant of the fact that most immigrants come to the United States because they were driven away from their countries of origin due to poverty, political persecution, government corruption, trafficking and other factors that force them to migrate,” the Philippine Forum said in a statement. “In the Philippines alone, more than 4,800 Filipinos leave the country on a daily basis to look for greener pasture elsewhere, with U.S. as the main destination.”

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