FilAm Leaders Welcome Obama’s Executive Action

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – Filipino American leader Loida Nicolas Lewis likened the executive order of President Obama, legalizing the status of more than five million undocumented immigrants, to the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln that freed four million slaves during the Civil War in 1863.

Like the Emancipation Proclamation, Obama’s executive order did not need the concurrence of the U.S. Congress. The Emancipation Proclamation was a war measure based on the president’s constitutional authority as commander in chief of the armed forces.

Lewis, a New York City-based leader of U.S. Pinoys For Good Governance (USP4GG), said Filipino Americans should call the White House to thank President Obama for making good his election pledge to relieve the feelings of the long suffering undocumented immigrants.

Meanwhile, Marlon L. Pecson, USP4GG Chicago member and member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said President Obama’s executive order deserves the heartfelt gratitude of the beneficiaries of his order for giving them a timely gift during the Thanksgiving this week and as an early Christmas present.

Filipino American Lawrence Benito, Executive Director of Chicago-based Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), thanked President Obama for taking the “executive action to shield millions of immigrants from the broken deportation system. To politely paraphrase Vice-President Biden: this is a very big deal.”

In an email to immigrant supporters, Benito also thanked them for making “this big deal happen. Your phone calls, letters, emails, and faxes to the White House made a difference. Your contributions to the Deporter-In-Chief exhibit, your boots on the ground, your voice chanting at rallies from coast to coast.

“Just one year ago, President Obama held tight to the notion that he didn’t have the legal authority to take executive action to stop deportations. After being interrupted during a speech on immigration by graduate student Ju Hong, the President responded, saying:

“…the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve.”


Benito added, it took a year of yelling, but “the President finally heard us.

As millions of people breathe a sigh of relief tonight, many millions more will not be protected by the action the President has ordered, he said.

“So while we celebrate, we must also recommit to the fight to make this executive order permanent law. We must fight for the remaining millions who were left unprotected tonight.

“Over the next weeks and months, as details become clear about the process of applying for Administrative Relief, you can find information and support at

“There’s still a lot of work to be done, from implementing the President’s plan to continuing to press Republicans in Congress to embrace comprehensive immigration reform.

“But for today. please take a moment to celebrate this victory. The work you’ve put in will help millions of families stay together.

“Additionally, please be sure to connect with Illinois is Ready on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news and updates on implementing Administrative Relief.

“Thanks so much for your work. I’m honored to share this victory with you.”


Meanwhile, the Define American, an organization founded by Filipino Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, said, “Today’s actions by the president, like presidents before him who have also acted on immigration, are a step towards embracing our heritage as a nation of immigrants and ending the suffering of millions. But the real shift can only come once culture embraces our immigrant past and welcomes the diversity in America’s future.

“Every night millions of American children go to bed in fear that they will wake up and their parents will be missing. Parents and grandparents go to church, to work, to school, wondering if they’ll be taken from their families and communities, extinguishing their American dreams, and deporting them back to countries they left decades ago.

“I’ve been pledging allegiance since middle school to an American flag and government that have yet to recognize me, possibly until this very day” said Vargas, also a filmmaker (“Documented”). “While this step to ensure we can live with less fear is wonderful, the real shift cannot happen with any piece of legislation–it must come from a shift in culture. It must come from responsible journalism and a change in the way we view immigrants as a nation.”

Says Rev. Ryan M. Eller, the executive director of Define American: “Now that the president has taken action, other elected leaders have an opportunity to carve a new, more productive path forward concerning issues of citizenship in the United States. The President has acted, helping to secure his place in history and showing leadership for his party. Republicans have that same opportunity. In fact, congressional leaders now have an opportunity to drape themselves in our nation’s heritage as an immigrant nation and to act more boldly and with the permanence executive action can’t. In doing so, however, they must answer the most important message of our age: How do you define ‘American’?”

“Thousands of people from across the nation are sharing the “pledge” symbol as a sign of unity and a reminder that as Americans, both documented and undocumented, we stand together in the fight for immigration fairness. That’s why at Define American, we are so excited that all Americans, whether they were brought here or born here, are using the pledge symbol to pledge anew to our country and show their support for immigrants on this pivotal day at”


Meanwhile, the New York city-based Philippine Forum said it joins millions of immigrants in welcoming the Executive Action on Immigration delivered by President Barack Obama last night, November 20. It is proof that the collective action of the people will prevail and be heard. Had the people not marched, signed petitions, held forums and Know-Your-Rights workshops, mobilized and organized their communities to fight for immigrants’ rights, President Obama will not be compelled to take this step to declare an Executive Action on Immigration.

However, we must remain vigilant. The Executive Action on Immigration presented by President Obama only caters to specific group of immigrants who meet the requirements stated in his speech. Quoting Pres. Obama “If you’ve been in America more than five years. If you have children who are American citizens or illegal residents. If you register, pass a criminal background check and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation.”

“While we welcome this as a significant development and that which would benefit a big number of our kababayans (fellow Filipinos) and fellow immigrants of other ethnicities, we must also remember and still be cognizant of the fact that most immigrants come to the United States because they were driven away from their countries of origin due to poverty, political persecution, government corruption, trafficking and other factors that force them to migrate. In the Philippines alone, more than 4,800 Filipinos leave the country on a daily basis to look for greener pasture elsewhere, with U.S. as the main destination.

“That being said, the roots of being undocumented immigrants are still not being addressed. Immigrants coming into the U.S. must not be criminalized as it is not their fault that they had to take risks and try their luck in other countries because their governments have failed to provide them with dignified jobs and livelihood opportunities in their own countries.”

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