Filipino Americans in front of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services federal building at Congress Street in Chicago, Illinois. | JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
CHICAGO (JGL) — With America aging, where will it get its pool of workers and military recruits if it attempts to deport close to one million youth on the heels of the news that President Donald Trump is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program?
This was one of the questions posed by leaders of massive rallies Tuesday (Sept. 5) in Chicago, Illinois and elsewhere in the nation, who are telling President Trump that deporting some 800,000 DACA recipients does not make sense because these youth know only one country all their lives — America.
DACA recipients will be strangers in the native lands of their parents, who brought them to America when they were under 16 years old.
Nerissa Allegritti, a Filipino American leader of AnakBayan-Chicago, said, “Itong ginawa ni President Trump ay hindi talaga maganda kasi (What President Trump had done is not really good because) they (DACA recipients) are very patriotic Filipino Americans.
“Meron pa nga tayo, ‘yong journalist (Jose Antonio) Vargas, na nakatangap ng award. (We even have Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas who won an award.)
“Itong 800,000 talagang (These 800,000 are really) very hard working and they can contribute a lot to this country and to our community. It’s a wrong move kasi kung titingnan natin, sila ang asset ng future ng bansang ito (if you look at it, they are the assets of the future of this country) and at the same time America will lose a supply of workers, educators and military people. Let’s pray and do action at the same time.”
Allegritti said these DACA youth came to the U.S. most of them were still very young. “Karamihan niyan maliit pa, ang iba niyan ay one month old, two months old and even if they are nine years old, ang kanila lang talagang nakikita na bayan ay itong Amerika. (Most of these DACA beneficiaries came to the U.S. while they were still young. Some of them were aged one-month-old, two months old and even if they were nine years old, the only country that they have ever known is America.)
LEARNED STATUS AT COLLEGE
“Tapos ngayon, later na lang nila nalaman ang status nila noong nag-college sila kasi dito, libre ang schooling from public elementary to high school, walang paper works. Pag-college na, kailangan mag-declare sila ng Social Security Number, doon lang nila nalalaman out-of-status pala sila. Itong DACA ginawa ni President Obama para may immediate na aksyon sa pagtulong sa mga kabataan. (Now, they later learned that they were out of status when they enrolled in college because here, there is free public and high school education and there were no paper works. When they enrolled in college, they have to declare their Social Security Number. That was the only time that they came to know that they were out of status.)
She said former President Obama had to approve the DACA executive order when the Senate and the House of Representatives failed to pass a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill.
Allegriti said because about 8,000 Filipino DACA recipients will be affected out of the 800,000 nationwide, “We are doing our best. Hopefully, next week, we will be able to visit the Philippine Consulate to find out what help it can do to the DACA youth.”
BE NOT AFRAID
Another Filipino American activist, Maya Arcilla, secretary general of AnakBayan, said she joined the “march after President Trump decided to cancel DACA. I am here because 800,000 immigrants will be affected by this cancellation and one in four Filipinos are undocumented.
“Some 6,000 Filipinos leave the Philippines everyday in search of better life and in search of better occupation. I am here because the crisis by the U.S. government will also cause crisis in the Philippines by occupying the country, occupying our homeland with military bases by having unjust and unequal treaties that result in poverty that forces the people to leave for abroad.
“I am here because no immigrant, no youth, no student, no caregiver should be afraid to lead their lives in this country. And they should have basic rights and their basic rights should be protected. My fear is that the Trump administration will start deporting DACA (youth). And those deportation will continue.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement, which offered limited information on the phase-out of DACA within six months, sparked sporadic protests from New York, Maryland, Washington, D.C., California, Seattle and other states were staged. Several organizations condemned the Trump administration’s decision as heartless and that President Trump lied about the way he would deal with the status of these young people. On a campaign trail, President Trump previously said he would treat some beneficiaries “with heart.”
In New York City, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city leaders joined a rally to denounce the end of DACA. Cardinal Dolan called President Trump’s action as an affront to Christian and American values.
He said “Dreamers are not criminals, aliens, problems, or intruders. They are our people. To demonize them as threats or terrorists contradicts, you know what, the Bible, America, New York and human decency.” He went on to say further that “our immigrants, our Dreamers are not partisan hockey pucks, but children of God. Our Dreamers are children of God. God made in His image and likeness, deserving of dignity and respect, not threats and vilification.”
The Board of Trustees of the City University of New York issued a statement saying, “Our nation, like CUNY, has served as a beacon of hope for all people trying to make a better life for themselves and their families and any effort to deny such access should be strongly opposed. The CUNY Board of Trustees fully supports any and all efforts to block the President’s misguided actions to wind down DACA. We remain steadfastly committed to protecting and educating students in their pursuit of the American Dream regardless of their status. The hopes and aspirations of CUNY’s DACA students cannot be rescinded, extinguished or otherwise ended by political cynicism.”
The City University of New York was founded 170 years ago.
The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees said in a statement that “New York State protects more than 50,000 DACA recipients, one of the largest populations in the nation. Repealing DACA will significantly harm the local to economy as DACA recipients pay more than $140 million in state and local taxes and contribute nearly $2.6 billion to New York’s annual GDP. 91% of DACA recipients are employed nationwide.”
Nearly 600 business executives, including those at Amazon, Microsoft, Marriott International and United Airlines, signed an open letter late last month calling on Congress to approve legislation to provide these young people raised in our country the permanent solution they deserve.”
Microsoft and Apple pledged to protect workers who face the risk of legal problems. Microsoft said in a statement it would provide aid wherever possible, including paying for affected employees’ legal counsel and intervening in court cases to defend DACA. It also called on Congress to restore DACA as its legislative priority, including tax reform, a major issue for the tech industry.
For its part, Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged the company would “work with members of Congress from both parties to advocate for a legislative solution that provides permanent protections for all the Dreamers in our country.”
The Philippine Daily Mirror reached out to two noted Filipino American immigration lawyers from New York City and one lawyer from Jersey City to express their views about the termination of DACA.
Lawyer Ferdinand Suba said: “The move to end the Dreamers Program is going to have devastating effects on the 800,000 DACA recipients (including Filipinos who were brought here by their parents) for a number of reasons, foremost of which are 1) work and 2) schooling. Their employment will be in jeopardy because their permit to work will be cancelled and those in school will be at risk of stopping school. It is not fair to them for having provided their personal information when they filed their DACA applications and that means that the USCIS can easily have access to their whereabouts and could be apprehended by ICE agents and deported summarily.”
Manuel Quintal, whose office is located across the Federal Building in downtown Manhattan, said: “Termination of the program does more harm than good. It will result to separation of family members. Its termination runs counter to the idea of family unity, which is the fundamental rationale for our immigration system. Its termination will have adverse effects on the economy. Let’s hope Congress has a more humane, yet realistic, view than the White House. Let’s hope it does something before the executive branch starts rounding up dreamers for deportation.”
From New Jersey, Gary Abasolo said: “Trump should not end DACA and should keep it. There was no need to place the burden on Congress to pass a law to make it legal. It already is legal, by Obama’s executive order. [It] seems like Trump is reneging on his campaign pledges to protect the Dreamers but is now trying to “pass the buck” to Congress and make them decide on it to make it legal. But it already is legal.
“Trump is abandoning the 800K dreamers involved by now jeopardizing their status, which by the way, is not surprising considering what he’s done so far in the almost 8 months of a disastrous Presidency marked with nothing but failures.”
MHC AND NAFFAA STATEMENTS
The Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), a nonprofit national organization based in Washington, D.C. dedicated to protecting immigrant rights, denounced President Trump’s termination of DACA, calling it “un-American” for betraying the cherished principles and ideals of this great nation.
Arnedo S. Valera, MHC Executive Director, also called on the U.S. Congress to permanently resolve the DACA issue by swiftly passing the bipartisan 2017 DREAM Act. The legislation was introduced last July 20 in the 115th U.S. Congress by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, and Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat from Illinois.
“Under today’s executive action, current DACA beneficiaries will not be affected until March 5, 2018. Congress has six months to pass legislation that would protect close to 800,000 DACA recipients. “Now that it is up to Congress to pass legislation, we must be united in our action to advocate for the passage of a Comprehensive Immigration Reform that will include a provision on Dreamers,” Valera stressed.
Valera added: “President Trump’s action will also lead to the breaking up of families, which is counter to America’s values and basic sense of human decency. Our immigration policy should be about economic opportunities, family unity, equality, immigrant justice and humanity. America was founded over 200 years ago as a Nation of Immigrants. We are, and will always be a Nation of Immigrants.
“We should legally challenge this rescission before the Courts of Law as a grave abuse of discretion considering that DACA has been declared constitutional by our US Supreme Court and in its implementation has created legal rights to DACA recipients.
On the other hand, Brendan Flores, National Chairman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) said in a statement that the “security and opportunity afforded to DACA recipients is a true representation of the American Dream. Eliminating DACA protections unjustly rips away the ladder of opportunity for hard-working people, divides families, and pushes immigrant communities back into the shadows.”
With report by Ricky Rillera in New York