MANILA, Nov. 20 (PNA) – The Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), a United States-based non-profit Filipino organization, has welcomed the modified immigration policy announced by President-elect Donald Trump that only criminals would be deported.
In a statement e-mailed to this writer on Sunday, MHC pointed out that during the election campaign, then candidate Trump said that if elected he would order the deportation of illegal immigrants.
MHC said there are over 500,000 undocumented Filipino immigrants across the United States.
“Last Nov. 8, voters elected Republican candidate Donald Trump as the next President of the United States,” the MHC said.
The MHC statement, which was signed by its three directors, namely, Rev. Atty. Arnedo S. Valera, Esq., Grace Divina S. Valera, and Jesse A. Gatchalian, said:
“We all know the campaign promises Candidate Trump made about mass deportations of 11 million people who entered this country without authorization, or have overstayed their visas. We heard Candidate Trump vowing to build a wall to secure the U.S. border.
“It is important to differentiate Candidate Trump from President Trump. Already, President-elect Trump has modified his position on these two campaign promises.He announced this on Nov. 13 in an interview on CBS-TV’s ’60 Minutes’.”
“He said only criminals would be deported. His exact words are these: ‘What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gangmembers, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million…’ out of this country. This is similar to the current policy under the Obama administration. What is the difference? Under President Obama, only convicted felons are being deported, or those who have undergone trial under the justice system.”
MHC added: “Frankly, we do not know if President-elect Trump will change his mind again once he is in office. Let us, therefore, remain vigilant. Let us guard our rights and our liberties. We will join other groups to achieve results, because truly, ‘there is strength in numbers’.”
Benefit of the Doubt
“Having said this, let us give President-elect Trump the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, we at MHC express our warmest congratulations to our next President and set of leaders. And we hope and pray that President Trump will truly be the ‘President for all Americans’ – as he said in his speech on Election night – regardless of race, ethnicity, ancestry, political creed, religious beliefs and gender orientation.”
“We need to MOVE FORWARD. This is the realistic direction for all to take. We set aside partisanship and help the new administration in building a brighter and better future for America and for the next generation. We pledge, however, to maintain our utmost vigilance. We will resist and campaign against national policies that reinforce racial prejudice, bigotry, and misogyny.”
At the same time, MHC shared some advice to immigrants:
- INFORMATION IS POWER. But it has to be accurate AND up-to-the minute or the latest information.
- KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. What are your rights under existing laws? First, regardless of your status, you are entitled to make one phone call to a lawyer, when you are accosted by a law enforcement officer who is specifically and duly authorized to do so.
- GET HELP FROM THE RIGHT PEOPLE. Consult only Licensed U.S. Immigration Attorneys and respectable Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with in-house immigration attorneys to help them navigate the complex immigration options available. Notary Publics and so-called Immigration Consultants are not authorized to give legal advice. In fact, doing so is considered unauthorized practice of law and a criminal act.
Immigration Scenarios under the Trump Administration
MHC also pointed out some immigration scenarios under the Trump administration, and what they would mean to Filipino migrants, as well as to Filipino Americans sponsoring their families.
It said there is a need “to keep in mind that there’s always the possibility that things can change in the months ahead.”
- If President Trump adopts his campaign’s immigration rhetoric as immigration policies, then the more than 500,000 undocumented Filipinos across the nation have a reason to be alarmed. Expect disruptions and strict regulations on immigrant visas allocated for the Philippines, whether they are family-based or employment-sponsored visas.
- If the campaign promise to ban the entry of citizens of countries with terrorist groups (extreme Islamic groups) – which the Philippines has with the Abu Sayaf in Mindanao – becomes policy, it means immediate suspension of visa processing and strict vetting at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, if not a complete halt while the U.S. government figures out a more concrete immigration policy towards the Philippines.
- If President Trump fulfills a campaign promise and scraps the 2012 and 2015 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program under his Executive powers, the undocumented would face the worst nightmares of their lives. After experiencing a sense of normalcy, getting out of the shadows and starting to build their future with their temporary work permits and their own Social Security numbers, once again they could be facing a return to “immigration limbo.”
Under the 2012 DACA, an Executive Memorandum and not a law, some 700,000 undocumented immigrants, including Filipinos, who entered the U.S. as children have been granted temporary work authorization, Social Security numbers and relief from deportation.
Republican National Party Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC-TV the day after the election, referring to President-elect Trump: “He’s not calling for mass deportation,” or the mass rollback of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (President-elect Trump has since then picked Priebus as his White House Chief of Staff.)
House Speaker Paul Ryan of the U.S. Congress told CNN on Nov. 13, “We’re focused on securing the border…we are not planning on erecting a deportation force…Donald Trump’s not planning on that.”
MHC said that “these are encouraging news, for starters. Still, we should withhold judgment – until a complete immigration policy is made official in the Trump Administration, one which is sound and humane and with all the Big Picture and nuances addressed.”
- Removals and Deportations can be done administratively and before the Immigration Courts. Because we observe the rule of law and there are fundamentaldue process requirements, an undocumented immigrant cannot be simply removed or shipped out from this country. But there are certain types of immigrants that can be administratively removed without going to the Immigration Courts, especially those who have committed crimes classified as aggravated felonies.
- There are mechanisms in place where the undocumented can challenge immigration actions of President Trump because they are illegal, unfair or violate due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. We should remember that our democracy is strong and intact and we follow the principles of checks and balances and separation of governmental powers: Legislative,Executive, and Judiciary. And we can use the Courts to challenge illegal immigration actions if they are implemented.
- A policy to deport the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants is not only inhuman. It is also very unrealistic. Already, top economists are cautioningPresident-elect Trump that his immigration policy, if implemented, would hurt the nation’s economy. They cited as examples the hotel and construction industries, which employ many undocumented.
“It is also noteworthy that more than 30 percent of Trump supporters are against the policy of mass deportation. Indeed, three in ten Trump supporters favor a comprehensive immigration law that will legalize the undocumented immigrants already in the United States,” MHC said.
We Will Be All Right
“We are hopeful that if President Trump decides to build a wall as part of securing our borders, that he considers building a bridge over that wall and a big door in themiddle of it. Because the essence of America is that it has one big heart for immigrants. Indeed, America is great because it is a Nation of Immigrants. For years, immigrants have been contributing to its progress in science and technology, business, and arts and cultures, among other fields.”
Trump will formally assume office on Jan. 20, 2017.
“MHC is calling on all immigration advocates to join with the immigrant rights community groups and individuals for the next two months in planning, assessment and evaluation of several immigration options available to us,” the statement said.