Cafe Migrante Hosts Forum On Immigration Issues

NEW YORK — Four years after then-presidential candidate Barrack Obama vowed to fix the broken U.S. immigration system, his administration has yet to deliver on his campaign promise.

“Instead, there have been more deportations under Obama than there have been in the two full presidential terms of George Bush,” immigration lawyer Cristina Godinez said at a recent forum on immigration held in Queens, NY

Godinez, who has helped hundreds of immigrants with their visa, green card and citizenship applications for nearly 10 years, said, however, immigrants in the U.S. have the power to influence developments in the U.S.

“Immigrants have the number and the resources to affect the outcome of this year’s election,” she said in the forum.

The forum, “Does America love immigrants?”, discussed recent developments concerning U.S. immigration policies. It was held on February 26 at the Bayanihan Community Center in Woodside, Queens,

The February 26 presentation was the first offering of Cafe Migrante, a monthly forum on immigration issues sponsored by the Philippine Forum.

In answering the question “Does America love immigrants”, Godinez said “it’s complicated”.

She, said the U.S. government has been sending mixed signals concerning its immigration policies.

“America proudly declares itself a nation of immigrants and yet forces some 11 million people to live in the shadows as undocumented persons by Congressional default,” Godinez said.

Godinez said the failure of the U.S. Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law that reflects current social and economic realities “has resulted in a confused patchwork of state and local immigration laws and an enforcement-heavy immigration policy on the federal level.”

Godinez also said that the Department of Homeland Security budget proposal next year reflects the U.S. government’s immigration priorities. The budget allocates six times more money to its two immigration enforcement agencies than to its agency that grants immigration benefits to non-citizens.

Enforcement agencies Customs and Border Protection (CBP) gets 21 percent and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) receives 10 percent of the proposed 2013 budget. Meanwhile, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) that processes visas, green cards and citizenships, is given a measly 5 percent.

Godinez, however, emphasized during the forum that immigrants have the political and economic power to influence developments in the U.S.  

Citing a 2011 study from the Pew Hispanic Center, Godinez said that one in eight Americans is an immigrant. “This means that the immigrant population has the number to influence elections,” she said.

She also noted the economic power of the immigrant population, citing the estimates of the Selig Center of Economic Growth in the University of Georgia. “The purchasing power of the U.S. Latino and Asian population in 2010 reached $1.544 trillion,” she said.

Godinez said although there seems to be no sign of a comprehensive immigration reform law in the immediate future, immigrants in the U.S. can push for pro-immigrant measures at the state level.

“The immigrant community can set their sights on pushing forward some bills like the DREAM Act that will allow undocumented children to access educational opportunities, whether at the state or the federal level,” Godinez said.

The Café Migrante forum series is a monthly forum on immigration held on the last Sunday of the month.

For March, Godinez will discuss among others, the basics of marriage-based immigration on March 25, at 2 p.m. at the Bayanihan Community Center located at 40-21 69th St, Woodside, Queens.

To get to the Bayanihan Community Center, take the 7 Train and get off at 69th St. and Fisk Avenue stop along Roosevelt Avenue.

For more information, please call Melanie Dulfo of the Philippine Forum at 718-565-8862 or email at mdulfo@philippineforum.org.

The Philippine Forum is a New York City-based not-for-profit organization that provides direct services, training and advocacy to Filipinos and people of Filipino heritage in the United States. It is also a prime mover in coalitions with other immigrant groups in advocating for immigration reform

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PHOTO CAPTION:

Immigration lawyer Cristina Godinez said during a forum that immigrants have the number and resources to make an impact in this year’s U.S. presidential elections. The forum, “Does America love immigrants?”, is the first offering of Café Migrante, a monthly forum on immigration and immigrant issues held every last Sunday of the month in Woodside, NY.

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