ConGen Tess De Vega to ‘anxious’ undocumented immigrants: ‘Our doors are open’

Town hall forum with Consul General Ma. Theresa Dizon-De Vega was moderated by Makilala TV hosts (from left) Jen Furer, Cristina DC Pastor and Rachelle Ocampo. Photo by Boyet Loverita

Town hall forum with Consul General Ma. Theresa Dizon-De Vega was moderated by Makilala TV hosts (from left) Jen Furer, Cristina DC Pastor and Rachelle Ocampo. Photo by Boyet Loverita

By Cristina DC Pastor

New Consul General Ma. Theresa Dizon-De Vega pledged assurance the consulate will provide assistance to undocumented Filipino immigrants facing deportation.

“I know there is always anxiousness and fear especially if you’re undocumented, but what we’d like to impart to everyone out there is if you need assistance or just a question answered, or even if you don’t know how to ask the question, please contact us,” she said during a town hall forum moderated by Makilala TV.

President-Elect Donald Trump vowed to deport 2 million to 3 million undocumented immigrants starting with aliens with criminal violations. His campaign promise conjures images of raids on immigrants’ homes and work places, such as factories and restaurants. Some Filipinos without legal status have begun to fear the worst, some contacting immigration lawyers who may be able to help keep them in the country. Immigration law offices have reported a surge in phone calls and inquiries since Trump won the election.

“If you are anxious about physically coming to us,” said Dizon-De Vega, Filipinos may call the consulate or just drop by for a visit. She said the contact numbers are available on the consulate website. “We have a 24/7 hotline. We will do our best to respond.” consulate-contacts

“If you’re a Filipino national under the jurisdiction of this consulate, our doors are open,” she said, referring to the 10 states within her scope: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. “Our main concern is you.”

She stressed the importance of Philippine nationals carrying their passports. She said, “The requirements are on the website. If you feel a little scared, tell us why.”

She was asked for her comment on the hero’s burial for former President Ferdinand Marcos, and how the issue has supposedly “divided” the Philippines. Declining to make a personal comment, Dizon-De Vega said the issue has Filipinos and Filipino Americans agreeing, disagreeing and finding themselves in the middle.

“If we can just step back and think,” she said, “everyone has arguments that are all valid all based on something, on history, on legal opinion, on socio-cultural level…we should respect all of these, and we have the democratic space for that.”

Paraphrasing a popular aphorism, she said, “I always go by the principle that I may not agree with what you’re saying but I will defend your right to say it.”

Dizon-De Vega took the opportunity to encourage younger generation FilAms to participate in nation-building and country-promotion activities through programs such as the Filipino-American Youth Leadership Program or FYLPRO. She likewise talked about the Philippine economic growth figure of 7.1 percent GDP for the third quarter of 2016. She said tourism remains a bright spot in the economy.

She spoke about the 10-point socioeconomic agenda of the Duterte Administration, the safety nets being implemented for so-called “vulnerable sectors,” the new public infrastructure called “Build. Build. Build” program, and the country’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2017.

Makilala (“get to know” in Tagalog) is the first Filipino-American TV talk show in the New York metropolitan area. It is aired through Manhattan Neighborhood Network. Since it began airing in 2013, it has served as a platform for the FilAm community to engage in political, economic, social, and cultural discussions.

Now on its fourth year, Makilala is hosted by book author Jen Furer, health educator Rachelle Ocampo and journalist Cristina DC Pastor. Makilala was The Outstanding Filipino Americans in NY awardee for Media and Publishing for 2015.

The town hall will air on MNN on December 15 and December 29.

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