Some 500K undocumented Filipinos ‘have reason to be alarmed:’ lawyers



By Maricar CP Hampton

With less than two months before President-Elect Donald Trump takes over the White House on January 20, 2017, the immigrant community is gripped with fear and worry wondering whether he would really deport 3 million undocumented immigrants – and how.

Regina Domingo, a Maryland-based immigration lawyer laid it out there: “Undocumented immigrants, no matter what foreign country they are from, will be deported. Filipinos are not spared nor excluded.”

Lawyer Arnedo Valera, with offices in Virginia, echoed her view. He said, “If President Trump carries out his immigration policy rhetorics during the campaign trail as new adopted immigration policies, then the more than 500,000 undocumented Filipinos across the nation have reason to be alarmed.”

He said Filipinos should “expect disruptions and strict regulation on immigrant visa allocated for the Philippines whether it be family-based or employment-sponsored visas.”

Valera shared that after the election his law office immediately received “unprecedented” number of inquiries via email, Facebook messages and phone calls asking about the anticipated impact of Trump’s likely immigration policies. He said as president, Trump has complete power to make huge changes in immigration policies.

“We are going to see a seismic shift and major changes in priorities as to enforcement of immigration laws by the Department of Homeland Security and the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” Valera said in a phone interview with The FilAm Metro DC.

He continued, “This means that the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants will be exposed to potential sudden removal from this country. We are talking here of those who cross the border (entry without inspection) and those who overstayed their visas (which) includes the Filipinos. And the focus of the Department of Homeland Security in enforcement will obviously lead to heightened deportation.”

Valera who has 23 years of experience, called Trump’s immigration plans “inhumane, unrealistic and expensive.”

A massive deportation will be “unprecedented in our history and it will cost our government billions of dollars to remove undocumented immigrants from the country while securing our borders with the promised ‘building of a wall,’” he said.

Domingo said, “It will require a huge amount of government resources to enforce removal of undocumented immigrants. That is why the Trump government is prioritizing deportation. Those who are convicted of aggravated felonies are top priorities.”

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Trump said he intends to make good on a campaign promise to get rid of undocumented immigrants with criminal records, like gang members or drug dealers “probably 2 million — and possibly 3 million.” The reduced number has prompted analysts to note how the reality show star has adopted a softer tone than when he vowed to order the removal of 11 million undocumented immigrants during the presidential campaign. He has stopped the use of the word “rapists” and instead calls them “terrific people.”

Valera who specializes in International Law and Human Rights, is optimistic that Trump will “come to his senses” and be a realistic. He hopes that Trump modifies his plans so as not “destroy family unity.”

Certain procedures have to be followed, said Domingo. “The process of removal should not violate the fundamental principles of fairness and due process. If one is undocumented and he is taken into immigration custody, you cannot simply be deported without providing you a chance to be heard and be given the opportunity to present his relief from deportation before the immigration court. This is called Removal Proceedings.”

However, Valera warned, “Defenses in Immigration courts are very limited.”

“Removals and deportations can be done administratively. But there are certain groups of immigrants that can be administratively removed without going to the Immigration Courts especially those who have committed crimes classified as aggravated felonies.”

Also at risk are some 700,000 young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. Trump has said he plans to repeal the 2012 DACA Executive Memorandum.

Domingo said, “DACA recipients will run the risk of enforcement action and their employment authorization would be revoked.”

Valera likewise said, “(Just when they are) getting out of the shadows as undocumented and are starting to build their future with their temporary work permits and securing their own Social Security numbers. Now they will be facing to be returned once again to an ‘immigration legal limbo.’ With a heightened policy of deporting undocumented immigrants, the DACA recipients whose personal information have been submitted will potentially face danger because of the cancellation of DACA. It becomes not only a serious concern but a real probable threat.”

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