Filipino-American groups have hailed a major policy speech of US President Barack Obama calling for reforms on the country’s immigration laws that should include a mechanism for the legalization of undocumented immigrants.
“We support the call for a practical, common sense approach to our broken immigration system that both secures the borders and establishes a path to legalization,” said Arnedo Valera of Migrant Heritage Commission.
“The Comprehensive Immigration Reform should be founded on fairness and social justice rooted on American values,” he added.
The National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) also said they are “heartened” by Obama’s speech, saying Filipinos will be among those who will benefit from immigration reforms.
“Filipinos have the longest waiting time for petitions to be approved and are thus adversely affected by protracted delays in visa processing,” said NaFFAA national chairperson Greg Macabenta.
Illegal immigrants in the US have now reached 11 million, according to Obama.
In his speech delivered last Thursday at the American University in Washington, D.C., Obama asked Congress to improve US’ immigration system, which he described as “fundamentally broken” and “painful.”
Obama acknowledged the various economic contributions of immigrants, making US the world’s “engine of global economy and a beacon of hope.”
However, he described in the same speech as “unwise and unfair” the proposals of some groups to either provide immigrants with legal status or at least put a stop to deportation while waiting for a better law to be passed.
“Our nation, like all nations, has the right and obligation to control its borders and set laws for residency and citizenship. And no matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable,” Obama said.
Critics, however, described Obama’s speech as significant but lacking in specific policy proposals.
Valera said the current immigration system promotes discrimination against members of ethnic groups, and leaves undocumented migrants vulnerable to illegal recruiters and unfair labor practices.
“A comprehensive immigration reform now is an effective response to the phenomenon of global migration and the current global economic crisis. Human beings are our resources to build a great nation,” Valera said.
He added that undocumented immigrants seeking better lives for themselves and their children in the US likewise bear the brunt of a flawed immigration system.
Macabenta also notes that many Filipino World War II veterans who had filed petitions for their children have passed away, thus voiding their petitions and depriving their children of immigration benefits.
Proposed immigration bills include a provision exempting eligible children of Filipino veterans from such limitations and expediting their visa applications.
“We need to keep raising our voices loudly and demand moral leadership on this critical issue. We must remind America that we are a nation of immigrants, that regardless of where we came from and how we came here, our shared values strengthen and enrich America’s culture and global standing,” added NaFFAA national vice chairperson Rozita Lee. – JA/KBK, GMANews.TV
By JOSEPH LARIOSA, GMANews.TV