Filipinos in DC tackle immigration bill


Panelists at the “Talakayan” hosted by the Philippine Embassy in D.C.: (From left) Irene Bueno, policy analyst; Arlene Magno, Philippine Embassy consul and first secretary; Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, head of the Office of Veterans Affairs. Photo by Jon Melegrito

WASHINGTON, D.C–Irene Bueno, a Filipino American public policy analyst based here, explained the key points of the U.S. Senate’s proposed immigration reform legislation at a recent community forum hosted by the Philippine Embassy.

“There is an urgency this year to fix our broken immigration system, so we have to stay in this fight to make sure a fair, just and humane bill is enacted,” Bueno said. “Filipinos are directly affected by this, not just the Latinos, so we have to make our voices heard and be part of this national debate.”

A former White House special assistant on domestic affairs, deputy assistant secretary in the US Department of Health and Human Services, and legislative director in Senate and US House offices, Bueno has been in the trenches of policy-making for more than 20 years.

Bueno lauded the bill submitted by the bipartisan Gang of Eight, notably the provisions which would reduce family backlogs over a ten-year span, correctly reclassify spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents as immediate relatives, and allow parents sponsored by U.S. citizens to bring their minor children with them.

“The long backlogs currently force families to endure inhumane wait times,” she said. “These meaningful solutions will ensure that families are reunited as quickly as possible.”

But there are “fixes to certain parts of the bill that need to be made,” Bueno warned. Among them: the replacement of certain family-based visas, such as siblings, by a merit-based system.

“It’s no longer enough to just be a brother or sister of a U.S. citizen in order to come to this country,” she explained. “As proposed, your chances are enhanced if you win points for factors such as age, education, entrepreneurship, employment, English language ability, family ties to the U.S. and other criteria. But there are concerns that this point system will undermine family reunification in the long run.”

Filipino American leaders plan a series of town hall meetings, such as this one held at the Philippine Embassy recently, to educate the community about immigration reform and organize congressional visits. Photo by Jon Melegrito

During the Q&A that followed, one question related to LGBT or same-sex couples. “They are not recognized in the family definition,” Bueno said. “Reform must be inclusive and should not discriminate based on race, gender or sexual orientation.”

Another attendee asked about Filipino World War II veterans who have been waiting to reunite with their families. “This should not be a heavy lift because both houses already approved a bill before that would fast-track the visa application of family members,” Bueno replied.

While she expects the Filipino veterans amendment to be included in the main bill, she anticipates a tough battle ahead on the other fixes, especially since the U.S. House of representatives has still to weigh in.

“That is why we need to organize and mobilize our community, now!” declared Bing Branigin, a coordinator with Filipinos for Family Reunification. In her call to action, Branigin urged community leaders to be actively engaged throughout the legislative process.

Bueno’s presentation was the first of a series of educational forums planned by the Filipino American community here. The community has availed of her expertise and experience in organizing lobby efforts to impact the legislative process, notably in the campaign to win recognition and benefits for Filipino World War II veterans.

The community forum, dubbed “Talakayan sa Embahada,” (Town Hall Meeting at the Philippine Embassy), also addressed overseas voting as they relate to the coming senate elections in the Philippines, and the on-going certification process of Filipino World War II veterans who have filed claims under the 2009 Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) Act.

Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenza, head of the Office of Veterans Affairs, reported that out of the 42,600 applicants only 18,764 veterans were granted benefits. About 4,000 have been denied because their names do not appear in the official certified list. Their appeals are pending.

The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) and Filipinos for Family Reunification co-sponsored the event.


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  • Linda Lane

    Forget any changes and enforce the existing law. Have you seen the hundreds of Filipinos lined up before dawn outside the American Embasey every weekday morning to legaly come here. My wife and I stood in those lines and many more line once in the US to become a citizen. Lock up the cheaters and then deport them as far away as possible. We don’t want any more cheaters in America. Cheap labor hurts all working people driving down wages for ALL.

    • nardong_tutpik

      America is a free enterprise mercantilist based economy. This is the very reason why it is very prosperous. The country boldly competes with everyone even at the risk of losing so that the best will be the ones to come up with the best product and services. The winners get rewarded with wealth, the losers still get the benefit of trying again in a level playing field.

      Why are you so scared of competing against other migrants such as youself? Compete like a beast and be the best you can be and you will still get a high income in America with or without new migrants. Makipagsapalaran ka kaya ka nga nandito sa US.

      • kanoy


    • jseesus

      crab+talangka+alimasag= alimango…

      • MC M

        They are not the crabs you speak of and just because they speak out against illegals does not mean they are dragging down their fellow countrymen. In fact they are US citizens who (as stated) went through the legal process and no longer qualify for the crab moniker you have so liberally applied. One million illegals make it one million times harder for those who came or will go to the US legally… illegal alimango are the true crabs for dragging down legal immigrants.

    • Graymatter28

      Yupz, and many of us even have to sacrifice and literally GIVE UP everything we worked hard for back in our respective homelands – including our properties and careers in order to take the risk of making it in America. It would be a total insult if the undocumented immigrants were simply given an easy path to citizenship like candies who did not break a single sweat and undergo emotional stress through the same arduous process many of us went through just to make it here.

    • MC M


  • wigglwagon

    The penalty for employers of illegal workers should be mandatory $15,000 fine per illegal worker and mandatory 2 years in jail without parole per illegal worker. That and deportation of the illegal worker would put an immediate end to the problem.

    That is ALL the reform we need.

    People like the DREAMERS are not needed in America. The people in their home countries need the DREAMERS to help build free prosperous societies. It is America’s responsibility to help all countries build a better world. We should not be stealing ‘the best and the brightest’ from other countries.

  • kanoy

    THIS IS THE DOOR THAT TERRORISTS PREFER TO USE THAT THE USA NEEDS TO SLAM SHUT>> “Reform must be inclusive and should not discriminate based on race, gender or sexual orientation.” NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO ENTER THE USA,,,ITS A PRIVILEGE THE USA EITHER DECIDES TO OR NOT TO GIVE YOU

    For all the bill’s emphasis on border control and visas, the “pathway to citizenship”
    remained at its heart, even though the phrase was not used in the
    outline made available to reporters.

    Within six months from enactment, during which time the
    Department of Homeland Security would set out its border security plan,
    the threat of deportation could end for most illegal immigrants. They
    would be allowed to work legally in the United States once they pay an
    initial $500 penalty and any back taxes, and if they can show they have
    not been convicted of a serious crime in the United States.

  • bongarroyo

    send them home…..

    all illegal immigrants should be deforted..

    no to immigration amnesty…

  • suburbanmother

    I don’t get why people leave their family and country, only to demand the host country the right to bring their mama, papa and siblings once they get in. It is not like they have been persuaded by Uncle Sam to leave their families behind. Only in the US where illegal immigrants are so bold in asking for same rights afforded to its citizens. In the Middle East, good luck if you dare…

    • nardong_tutpik

      Only in the US where immigrants are bold in asking for the same rights afforded to its citizen? Maybe because everyone (except the American Indians) in the US was an immigrant in one way or another hence they know the very essence of migrating to another world for a new life with your whole family.

      • riza888

        The US may have belonged to Native Americans once but that was a long time ago. The people who stole it and the Indians who it belonged to are all dead. Both the thieves and the Indians have been dead for centuries. Many of people aren’t even descended from either side. I reject the doctrine of inherited guilt.

        NO AMNESTY and NO LEGALIZATION for illegal immigrants living in the United States. More weight to potential job skills and less weight to family connections. Deport all illegal immigrants, secure the border and fine anyone who hires an illegal immigrant. That is the law.

      • kanoy

        LOL far from dead are the American Indians the reservations are proof of that,,,a country within a country,,,for that land is not owned by the USA its the private property of the Indians….one tribe just leased a parcel of land to a PCG company and every member got a $$$ down payment and $10000 a month for 20 years,,,,pretty good pay for a bunch of long dead people

      • Crazy_horse101010

        i lived among different tribes in oregon, montana, and northern california. most now have casinos because these states dont have gambling but the indians can.. the crows in and northen cheyenne have unlimited coal reserves on their land.which they collect off of it. several tribes have sawmills. others make money on selling hunting tags for elk bear and deer. some of the biggest elk come the apache res. . in arizonia.. they have free medical and can travel back and forth to canada without any passport. i have worked with canadian lineman in america because they can work in both countries.with no problems..the only outside police that can go on a reservation is the fbi. they have their own police force. ive worked for indians and had indians working for me. some are my friends…

      • kanoy

        I lived/worked Oregon we planted trees from Portland west to the coast what we call the Tillamok burn and lived with a group of Indians there for 2 yrs and used to think moose where huge until I saw an elk,,,I follow you on all you said,,,,except 1 thing….FREE MEDICAL….since when? where? covered by what? who pays? what reservation has its own hospital? besides Pine Ridge S.D. (Sioux)? Indian tribes are not all inclusive they are separatist organizations this headline below is from 2011 and as we know things have only gotten worae
        Official: Lack of funding harms Indian health
        Native Americans aren’t getting the health care
        they need because services for them are vastly underfunded, the
        director of the federal Indian Health Service said Friday.

        also what little they do get is not free

      • Crazy_horse101010

        a indian friend of mine said he was issued a medical card that could be used. it might be good only for that tribe.i think it was warms springs.the montana tribes had clinics and the hupas and yuroks had a hospital in hupa because i worked by it. northern california on the trinty. i know tillamok i was born in eastern oregon but lived all over oregon because my dad worked road construction. i went to 8 high schools there. and to osu. crows and northern cheyennes went to lame deer, lodge grass, hardin, and on to billings for anything major.i know the sioux have it rough compared to most tribes.,.

      • Crazy_horse101010

        there is the ihs that is federal which has 2700 nurses 900 doctors and 300 dentists 70 percent who are indians . then there is american indian health program that provides health care services through tribally operated 638 health programs and urban indian health clinics. this is run through the dept of health and the person running it is from pine ridge. it also runs 33 hospitals. the indian i was talking about i believe he had A AIHP CARD.

      • Crazy_horse101010

        everyone else came through ellis island or angel island.. they didnt swim the rio grande or cross the deserts.carrying drugs because the drug cartels forced them to. .thats not counting the ones who came there in a shipping crates. many of those who sneak in are wanted by the law in their own countries

  • jseesus

    kawawa naman kayong pinoy na nandyan na mga legal.. di makatulog sa inggit dahil magiging legal na ang mga kakupetensya nyo sa trabaho. pero tignan mo ang mga mexicano na legal, nagdidiwang sila dahil mga kababayan nila may pagkakataon nang makapagtrabaho nang walang takot. yan ang pagkakaiba ng lahing pinoy at mexicano na dating colonial master nang mga pinoy. hanggang ngayon ramdam pa rin nila sa mga pinoy ang ginawa nilang pangbrebrainwash sa utak ng mga pinoy. divide and conquer.. kaya hanggang ngayon tribu tribu pa rin ang paguugali ng mga pinoy indio para sa kanila.

    • riza888

      What a silly analysis. So very flawed and obviously racist.

    • chupsup

      Sira. Nag-aral ka ba? Mexicano yan hindi Spaniards. Spain ang nag-colonize sa pinas. Mga mexicano biktima din sila tulad ng mga pinoy sa kolonisasyon ng mga europyano…

  • disqus30

    I think the US wants to imitate the point system like in Canada and Australia. This is what Ted Kennedy said that he envied the immigration policy of Canada. The problem with this system is that you are going to get more educated people to compete with graduates in America which will force them in the end to work for labor jobs just like in Canada. Although this will be good for the US because it give them more skilled workers, the immigrants will become frustrated because they are not going to get their career.

  • disqus30

    The US system of family sponsorship is very tedious. You have to wait for a long time to get it processed.

    • riza888

      And the US can’t afford to have anymore unskilled, unhealthy, uneducated, non-English speaking family members of any US citizens to immigrate in the US just because they are related by bloodline. They will likely become public burden and collecting public welfare assistance later.

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