By Gel Santos Relos
Many Pinoys who are haunted by fears of arrest and deportation may have heaved a sigh of relief, hearing President Obama’s announcement of his administration’s new policy, which spares young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Bypassing longstanding gridlock in Congress, Obama’s new immigration policy fulfills some provisions of the contentious DREAM Act. As the Associated Press reported, young undocumented immigrants will be immune from deportation if they meet the following requirements:
If they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are 30 or younger;
If they have been in the country for at least five continuous years; if they have no criminal history;
If they graduated from a US high school or earned a GED or served in the military.
Undocumented young people can now apply for a work permit that will be good for two years, and renewable with no limits.
We have interviewed many young “TNT” kababayans, who are among 800,000 others who were brought to the United States as young kids by their parents and stayed here illegally through no fault of their own. Most of them do not know how to speak the language of their Motherland, and have little or no ties at all to their country of origin.
“Let’s be clear, this is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a permanent fix,” President Obama said from the White House Rose Garden. “This is the right thing to do.”
During President Obama's first three years in office, he has reportedly deported more undocumented immigrants than his predecessors-- the most by any president since the 1950s.
This new development comes during an election year, following a series of other immigration policy changes as well, particularly in the administration’s judgment call on allocating limited resources to prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants, who have criminal records and are a threat to national safety and security.
“Many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant ways,” says Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “Prosecutorial discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”
This announcement also came a day after Pulitzer award-winning and undocumented Fil-Am journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas, created another stir in the immigration dialogue, writing a cover story, “Not Legal,Not Leaving” and gracing the cover of TIME Magazine as well.
The cover showed Vargas, along with 35 other undocumented immigrants from 15 countries, which, according to Vargas, is the true picture of American immigration today. “We are Americans* *Just not legally,” the cover states.
Vargas, who worked for big news publications like The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, shocked the entire world last year, when he revealed in his New York Times magazine story that he’s an undocumented immigrant.
“I take you to the process of what it is, the process of becoming a green card holder and citizenship. People do not understand that when Mitt Romney or politicians in this country say that people, like me, should wait at the back of the line. But people actually do not know that there is no line. There is no process,” Vargas said, hoping his ten-page cover story on TIME Magazine will elevate the national discourse on immigration.
As we reported on Balitang America, Fil-Am community leaders across America, agreed with the President “that it makes no sense to expel talented young persons who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans.”
“We welcome and applaud President Obama’s announcement...giving legal status to young immigrants whose parents came to this country without legal status,” said a statement from the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).
The new Obama immigration policy is similar to the Republican proposal being drafted by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, as an alternative to the DREAM Act. Like this administration’s policy, Rubio’s proposal also spares the young undocumented people from deportation and do not provide an automatic pathway to citizenship.
“Today’s announcement will be welcome news for many of these kids desperate for an answer, but it is a short-term answer to a long-term problem,” said Rubio in a statement. “And by once again ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress, this short-term policy will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long-term one.”
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney echoed Rubio’s statement, saying: “It’s an important matter to be considered and should be solved on a long-term bias so they know what their future would be in this country.”
“Obama’s executive order to allow some illegal immigrants to obtain work permits and stay in the US legally was problematic, Romney said, because “an executive order, of course, is a short-term matter. It can be reversed by subsequent presidents.” However, he would not answer questions if he would reverse the order if elected president.
Conservative Fil-Ams also voiced out their opposition to Obama’s immigration policy, especially those who followed the rules, got in line and waited for many years to get their green card; and subsequently, were naturalized as American citizens.
One comment posted by “aroc” on our Balitang America website summed it up:
“These groups who are supporting [and] applauding Obama’s bad, hideous intent -- rewarding illegal aliens [and] lawbreakers are illegal aliens [and] lawbreakers themselves. Majority of Americans and legal residents despise Obama’s questionable [and]unlawful [policy]. Any way you slice it is not kosher, but dirty to the bone of law-abiding citizens and legal residents.”
“DREAM Act?...To fund college education of illegal aliens is a notorious act and must be totally repealed, buried so it will not resurface again. Shame to politicians who embrace the DREAM Act, like Obama, with twisted priority...even citizens and legal residents cannot afford college, so why [are] illegal aliens a priority, instead of helping Americans and legal residents [who are] hurting financially [at] this bad economic time[?]”
Do you agree with Obama’s new immigration policy?