If there is much interest in these parts in US President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, it’s because the Philippines is among the top 10 countries of origin for Daca recipients.
This is to say that a big number of people with roots in the Philippines who know of no other home than the United States are at risk of being deported.
Trump last week began essentially taking down the program which his predecessor Barack Obama put up because of a piece of immigration legislation.
The proposed Dream (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act would allow illegal immigrants under 30 who entered the United States before they turned 16 and have lived there for five straight years, of good moral character, and graduated from an American high school, could, at six years and after meeting other requirements, be granted permanent residency and possibly US citizenship.
It has yet to be passed despite the US Congress debating versions of it for decades.
In 2012 Obama put up Daca, which allows some “Dreamers” — illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors — to stay instead of being deported, and to get work permits.
Trump spoke strongly against Daca as early as the election campaign. His administration will renew permits for those enrolled in the program only for another six months, or until March 2018. If the proposed Dream Act is not yet passed by then, it would be a bleak future for the Dreamers.
As Trump said, “young Americans have dreams, too,” implying that he did not consider the Dreamers American.
There are 3.4 million Filipinos living in the United States, more than 300,000 of them illegally. An estimated 10,000 Filipinos — brought to the United States in their youth to live with relatives and stay illegally in the hope of a better future — are expected to be affected by Trump’s action.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the Department of Foreign Affairs would offer “limited” assistance to these “Dreamers,” but added that they should “prepare for the worst.”
The American Dream has long been the dream of many Filipinos, with living and working in the United States considered the ultimate achievement. Some do so against all odds, enduring the life of the undocumented — “TNT,” for tago nang tago or always hiding (from immigration officers).
Filipino-American journalist Jose Antonio Vargas became the face of the Dreamer in 2013 when he — part of a Pulitzer-Prize-winning team of Washington Post reporters who covered the 2008 shooting at Virginia Tech University — revealed he had been living illegally in the United States since he arrived at age 12.
Vargas made his plight public, testified before the US Senate, was detained and then released.
“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our shores,” he once said.
The cancellation of Daca affects not only Filipinos but also Central and South Americans and certain Europeans.
“We are Americans in heart, mind and soul. We just don’t have the correct documentation that states we’re American,” said Jose Rivas, 27, a graduate student in Wyoming.
Indeed, America is the only home they know, where they are building productive lives and contributing to its dynamic nature, not to mention its economy.
Obama has been rallying support for finding a way to enable the Dreamers to stay, and for meaningful immigration reform — exemplified by the Dream Act — to be enacted.
“To target these young people is wrong — because they have done nothing wrong,” the former US president said in a statement. “It is self-defeating—because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people — and who we want to be.”
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