Obama Uses Executive Action On Immigration; Holds Nearly 5M Undocumented Immigrants Accountable

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – President Barack Obama legalized the status of more than five million undocumented immigrants, including 270,000 Filipinos, who were in the United States during the last five years, for as long as they play “by the same rules,” allowing them to stay in the US and protecting them from deportation if they pay their fair share of taxes and pass background checks and register to temporarily stay in the U.S.

In a 16-minute prime time televised address to the nation Thursday (Nov. 20) night, Mr. Obama said the bulk of beneficiaries will be given to those who have “been in America for more than five years; if you have children, who are American citizens or legal 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.

“You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.”
Obama is travelling Friday (Nov. 21) to Las Vegas, Nevada to meet with some of the students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva, where he is likely to formally sign an executive order that maybe called “a new deferred action program for parents (DAP) of U.S. Citizens or LPRs (legal permanent residents).”

DAP will be a takeoff from the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) launched in June 2012, an immigration benefit for nearly two million children illegally brought into the country when they were less than 16 years old; entered the country before.

June 15, 2007; were born after 1981 and had finished high school or GED or joined the U.S. military.

The DACA recipients euphemistically called “Dreamers” were granted work permits and were prevented from being deported if they did not commit felony.

The DAP applicants had to be in the U.S. for more than five years at the approval of the executive order. “Individuals will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for three years at a time if they come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass background checks, pay fees, and show that their child was born before the date of this announcement.”


Obama’s order will focus on the removal of those involved in national security, serious criminals and recent border crossers. Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson is replacing the existing Secure Communities program with a new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) to remove those convicted of federal criminal offenses.

The order will also allow workers with high-skilled abilities awaiting LPR status and their spouses “to move or change jobs more easily.”

Foreign entrepreneurs, who create jobs and attract investment and generate revenue, will also be given option. But if they reach certain income thresholds, they will not be eligible for certain public benefits like welfare or tax credits under the Affordable Care Act.

Ties will be strengthened between existing Optional Practical Training (OPT) program and foreign students of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in colleges and universities following graduation.

DHS will expand an existing program that allows certain individuals to apply for a provisional waiver for certain violations before departing the United States to attend visa interviews.

“We whole-heartedly support President Obama’s executive action that provides immigration relief to undocumented immigrants, who have made significant contributions to this country, and yet have been denied access to the same opportunities that Americans enjoy,” says National Federation of Filipino American Association National Chairman JT Mallonga. “His bold decision is a step forward in alleviating the plight of millions of undocumented immigrants who have been unfairly treated by our broken immigration system.”


Mallonga adds: “NaFFAA stands in solidarity with other immigrant communities in demanding policies that unite families and celebrate the many contributions immigrants have made – regardless of legal status – to the social, political and economic well-being of this country. President Obama’s actions today affirm that we are indeed a nation of immigrants, “a nation that values freedom, a nation that works together and keeps us together.”

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimates there are 270,000 undocumented Filipino immigrants in the U.S. today. NaFFAA, and other national organizations, have called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Filipino nationals in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. President Obama’s action is expected to benefit at least 150,000 Filipinos who have been here for at least five years.

“President Obama has reaffirmed once more that this nation is a nation of immigrants. That our immigration system should be about family, unity, economic opportunity, fairness and equality.  Providing immediate immigration relief to at least five (5) million undocumented immigrants, who include tens of thousands of Filipinos  in the United States, is a very important step toward fixing our broken immigration system. His executive action should not be seen as an  “all cure” to our defective immigration system but an immediate and practical immigration relief to millions of undocumented immigrants greatly impacted by an unresponsive immigration system that has destroyed the fabric of our nation and the family values that this great nation stands for.” Rev. Atty. Arnedo S.Valera, Executive Director of the Migrant Heritage Commission, said.


Chris Punongbayan, Executive Director of Asian American Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, called the order of President Obama as a “victory” for an estimated 4.9 million undocumented immigrants, including approximately 400,000 Asian immigrants, who will receive temporary relief from deportation. But it also means that nearly six million people will still face the risk of deportation and that Asian immigrants will still have to wait decades to join their family members in the United States due to our country’s overwhelming visa backlog.

“People don’t realize that there are increasing numbers of Asians and Pacific Islanders, who are undocumented, poor, and locked up. More than a quarter of undocumented AAPIs are living below the poverty line. Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders, many of whom have lived their whole lives here, are deported for criminal convictions at five times the rate of other immigrants. Today’s action does not end all of these deportations and we will continue to fight on their behalf until all deportations end.”

“We have been waiting patiently, and today, many more families can sleep soundly and without fear,” said Mee Moua, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC. “But there is much more work to be done. Nearly 1.8 million people from Asian countries are waiting decades for a family-sponsored visa.”
Jerry Clarito, Executive Director of Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights & Empowerment, has scheduled a town hall meeting on Monday, Nov. 24, from 6-9 p.m. at AFIRE’s headquarters at 7315 N. Western Avenue in Chicago’s north side to discuss the impact of President Obama’s administrative relief “to our community and how to access available services.” Interested parties may RSVP by Saturday, Nov. 22, by calling 773-580-1025 or emailing  jclarito@yahoo.com or afire_chicago@yahoo.com. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)


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