Obama's immigration reform favors Pinoy immigrants

By Jose Katigbak
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said as part of a comprehensive immigration reform, families should be reunited more quickly instead of keeping them apart, a proposal which resonated strongly with Filipino immigrants whose waiting time to petition loved ones to join them in the US is among the longest.

In a major policy speech on immigration in El Paso, Texas across the border from Mexico where most illegal immigrants to the United States come from, Obama said there was need to reform US immigration laws so “they address our economic and security needs while honoring our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.”

He said the reforms should address four main issues: secure the borders and enforce the laws; businesses have to be held accountable if they exploit undocumented workers; undocumented immigrants have to admit they broke the law, pay their taxes, pay a fine, learn English and undergo background checks before they can get in line for legalization.

Immigration laws should be updated to “respect families following the rules – reuniting them more quickly instead of splitting them apart.”

There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants – including about 300,000 overstaying Filipinos – and they could be eligible for permanent resident cards, more popularly known as “green cards,” under the proposed reforms.

Additionally, many of about 3 million legal Filipino residents or Filipino-Americans unable to get their children or siblings to join them because of an immigration backlog could benefit from the reforms.

Naturalized Americans who petition their siblings generally have to wait 11 years in order to be reunited with them. For some countries such as the Philippines, the waiting period is as long as 23 years due to high demand by Filipinos for immigrant visas to the US, lawyers said.

In his speech, Obama said the US-Mexico border was more secure than ever before because more agents have been deployed in the area and the use of unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles has increased.

As a result US border agents have confiscated 31 percent more drugs, 75 percent more currency and 64 percent more weapons in the past 2-1/2 years of his administration, he said.

Also far fewer people are attempting to cross the border illegally because of stepped up US patrols and apprehensions.

Obama enjoined all Americans to add their voices to the immigration debate.

“We need Washington to know that there is a movement for reform gathering strength from coast to coast,” he said.

Obama has called for immigration reforms before but they have not gained much traction in Congress.

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