Fil-Ams hail US immigration bill


President Barack Obama speaks about immigration reform, Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The Senate is preparing to cast the first votes on a landmark bill that offers the best chance in decades to remake the nation’s immigration system and offer eventual citizenship to millions. AP/Charles Dharapak

WASHINGTON, DC—Filipino-American leaders lauded the Senate passage of a historic immigration bill that offers a path to citizenship to most of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States—one million of whom are Filipinos.

“It’s time to celebrate and prepare for the next hurdle,” said Gregory Cendana, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, whose representatives cheered from the public viewing gallery as the Senate voted 68-32 to pass the bill yesterday (Friday in Manila).

As the bill moves to the House, Cendana and other immigration reform advocates have started to prepare for what they expect to be an uphill battle in the House of Representatives.

Commonsense reform

US President Barack Obama, in a statement, warned that “now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality.”

“It’s going to be a long and hard fight,” said Bing Branigin, spokesperson for the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations, one of the Fil-Am leaders who witnessed the historic vote in the Senate.

Branigin said they will continue to form alliances with other groups advocating laws that will treat immigrants with dignity and help reunite families separated by a broken immigration system.

Not perfect, but…

“This bill is not perfect,” said lawyer Arnedo Valera, executive director of the Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC). “But it’s a giant step in the right direction. It will provide opportunities for the one million undocumented Filipinos to come out of the shadows and chart better lives for themselves and their families.”

MHC members and supporters made numerous phone calls and sent hundreds of e-mails to senators to lobby for the passage of the bill, Valera said. “We will now reach out to the members of Congress and ask them to do the right thing,” he added.

“A tough but necessary debate awaits us in the House,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning Fil-Am journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, in a Facebook post. Vargas has been in the forefront of the national campaign for immigration reform since he disclosed his undocumented status in 2011.

2nd-class citizenship

“The core of the debate will rest on citizenship—more specifically, do we want 2nd-class citizenship in 21st-century America?” he said.

As the Senate prepared to vote on the bill, many immigrant rights groups, including the Los Angeles-based Filipino Migrant Center (FMC), held vigils and rallies, hoping for good news for illegal immigrants who have been waiting, in some cases for many years, for legal status.

“We will continue to push for genuine, humane reform with a focus on protecting families,” said Alex Montances, FMC campaign coordinator. “We are ready to face anti-immigrant forces in the House (of Representatives) who may attempt to pass harsh measures.”

FMC and other groups uniting under the Asian Americans Advancing Justice—a broad coalition of immigrant rights, labor and faith-based groups—held a 24-hour vigil in front of the federal building in downtown Los Angeles starting on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

They called for an end to unjust detentions and deportations, the “strengthening of family unity as a cornerstone of our immigration system” and a “direct, affordable, and inclusive path to citizenship.”

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  • BakbakanNa

    Mga kolokoys, congrats sa inyo !! More adobo to adodo nation…

  • Patikotiko

    More banana for the chinks!!!!

  • AmericanBana

    Why undocumented in the first place? it’s not that philippinos can swim accross the ocean like mexicans can swim accross the Rio Grande River!

    • kanoy


      QUOTE> On a more positive note, it seems likely that gay immigrants will benefit from immigration reform in the not-so-distant future. A White House press release published after President Obama’s January 29th speech in Nevada on immigration reform said that his plan “treats same-sex families as families,” by enabling gay Americans and green card holders to petition for visas for their long-term partners. The Supreme Court will also review the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) this year, which dictates immigration policies for gay couples. Political momentum for gay rights is strong: it seems probable that the court will strike down DOMA, and with it, the double standard for gay immigrants and their American partners.

      • AmericanBana

        Has NOTHING to do with Gays! even though the philippines venerate them as demi gods! Maybe there should be MORE GAYS in the philippines, would cut down birth considerably or maybe keep Priests pants zipped up!

      • kanoy


      • Fred Garcia

        At one point I think giving gay people a time to legally marry can decrease the ever increasing population in the philippines. Lets give them 25 years and then we’ll repeal the law!

  • WAJ

    This is not a done deal yet. The bill still have to pass in the lower house before it becomes a law…

  • RightCowLeftCoast

    As a Filipino American U.S. Citizen, do not count me as one who supports this immigration bill. It will, as the CBO states, depress the wages of working-class individuals during a period that has seen workforce participation rates drop, high unemployment, and stagnent wages. Furthermore, it rewards millions who have violated the law, and by doing so punishes those who wait patiently to go through the legal process to correctly process. Millions of individuals through the years have gone through that process, I cannot in my right mind see why others should be exempt from that process when there is a history of successful completion of the process. By exempting individuals from it, is rewarding those whom have broken the law.
    Yes, there is a need for reform, as the process can be difficult. And yes, Filipinos whom are still alive, whom fought in the Commonwealth forces against Japan, and recognized guerillas, should have their U.S. Nationality restored, have their veterans status restored (something President Truman revoked), and be allowed to immigrate if they wish to. However, that does not mean those illegally in the U.S. Should be rewarded.
    No other nation would be expected to reward those individuals who have violated its sovereignty and broken its laws, so the United States should not do so either.
    I support legal immigration, if my mom and spouse cane immigrate legally, and go through the process of naturalizing, so can everyone else.

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