US Senate Bill allows thousands of Filipinos to immediately come to America
By Ted Laguatan
12:28 pm | Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
While so much attention has been given to the provision allowing for the legalization of an estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the newly introduced Senate Bill known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (Bseoima) – little notice has been given to its other provisions which allow for the immediate entry of family members of US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents who have been waiting for years for immigrant visas to be available to them. It also increases the quota for employment based petitions for professionals from the present level of 15% of the total of immigrants entering the US annually to 45%. The combined numbers of family member immigrants and more immigrant professionals from the Philippines will amount to a new wave of thousands of Filipinos coming to the US should this Bill become law which is likely – given the fact that there is now bi-partisan support for a comprehensive immigration reform law.
For sure, the legalization provision of Bseoima will benefit thousands of out of status Filipinos who either overstayed or worked illegally. They entered the US on tourist, business, student, working, investors, religious, entertainer, crewman, transit, trainee or some other visa. Some even entered the US without any visas but simply crossed the border from Mexico or Canada.
The Senate Bill is 844 pages long and in some parts are very difficult to understand for the layman and even for lawyers who do not understand immigration law. But let me simplify some of the most important provisions that are most relevant to Filipinos (in question and answer format). But a little Caveat is in order: Bseoma is not yet law. The House of Representatives will have their own version. Discussions will be ongoing within the Senate and within the House. The two bodies will then have their final versions out of which a final joint agreed upon Bill hopefully will result which President Obama can sign into law (if acceptable to him).
Q. Who are qualified to file for legalization?
A. Generally: Those who were present in the US as of December 30, 2011 and physically present at the time of filing. He (or she) must be a person of good moral character and not have committed serious crimes and not be a public charge (on welfare). His spouse and minor children will also qualify as dependents even if they do not meet these conditions.
Q. What status will a qualified applicant have?
A. He will have a status referred to as “Registered Provisional Immigrant” (RPI). With this status, he can stay, work and travel in and out of the US. After ten years, the RPI may apply for Lawful Permanent Resident Status and after three years as an LPR be able to file for US citizenship. For those who entered the US before the age of 16 and graduated from High School and are persons of good moral character and not on welfare - they can immediately apply for naturalization after only 5 years of being RPIs. For those who worked as agricultural workers, special provisions also allow them to file for LPR status in less time than a regular RPI.
Q. Will the immigrant visa petitions of LPRs for their spouses and minor children be speeded up?
A. Yes, because these petitions will be treated as Immediate Relative Petitions of US citizens for which visas will be immediately and always available.
Q. How about the petitions of LPRs and US citizens for their adult single children?
A. They will be given “V Visas” which will enable them to immediately come to the US, be given work permits and wait for their immigrant visas here. The same thing is true with married adult children of US citizens who are below 31 years old be eliminated.
Q. How about the siblings of US citizens and married children who are over 31 - who already have pending immigrant visa petitions.?
A. They will be given visas allowing them to visit for 60 days but without work permits. Also, when this law is enacted, new petitions by US citizens for siblings or married children over 21 will no longer be allowed.
The Senate Bill also imposes penalties on non-lawyers who provides immigration legal services in order to protect immigrants from exploitation, fraud and incompetence. Some of these individuals operate both in the US and also in the Philippines.
There are other important provisions which I will address in the future.
Aquino must sign the Amended Overseas Voting Act ASAP
By Rodel Rodis
9:07 pm | Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
After the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) law was finally passed in 2003, its most enthusiastic supporters vowed to get it immediately amended as soon as possible. It would take almost a decade of patient lobbying but, finally, the global lobbying effort paid off with the passage by Congress of the Amended Overseas Voting Act (OVA) on February 7, 2013.
The OVA bill had the backing of President Benigno S. Aquino III, who received more than 65% of the overseas Filipino vote in the 2010 presidential elections and whose mother championed overseas Filipino suffrage. But, almost three months after the OVA was approved by Congress, the bill has not yet been signed into law and there are less than 13 days left before the May 13 national elections.
Just three months ago, Manila’s dailies announced that “before it adjourned for the campaign period for the midterm polls, Congress approved amendments to the law on overseas voting, which proponents hope could result in increased number of registrants for the2016 polls.” (“Congress OKs amended overseas voting law”, Feb. 8, 2013, Sun Star).
“The House of Representatives earlier this week ratified the bicameral conference committee report on House Bill 6542 and Senate Bill 3312. The Senate has also ratified the bicam report,” the Sun Star news report added.
Request to witness historic signing
Delegates attending the 2nd Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora, held in Makati on Feb.25-27, requested that they be invited to Malacañang to witness Aquino’s signing of the OVA bill into law. These delegates included members of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).
Mr. Paolo Domingo of the Appointments Office of Malacañang responded to the request on Feb. 26, 2013: “The President is sending his apologies as he will not be able to accommodate the request of USP4GG/NaFFAA officials to witness the signing of the OVA bill due to his full schedule.” Does this mean that the OVA was received by Malacañang?
Suffrage for overseas Filipinos
In January of 2003, I joined more than two dozen Filipino Americans who traveled to Manila to lobby the Philippine Congress to pass the Overseas Absentee Voting bill (Republic Act No. 9189). We had been working on suffrage for overseas Filipinos since we met with President Corazon “Cory” Aquino in Malacañang in April of 1986. Cory Aquino promised support for this right and included it in her 1987 amendment of the Philippine Constitution in 1987.Article IV, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution states: “The Congress shall provide a system for securing the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot as well as a system for absentee voting by qualified Filipinos abroad.”
From 1987 on, various bills were introduced in the Philippine Congress to implement this constitutional provision but they all failed. It was not until January of 2003 when an overseas suffrage bill faced its best chance of passage.
Abandoned the Philippines?
Unfortunately, Makati Rep. Teddy Locsin, who was President Cory Aquino’s press secretary in 1986 when she announced her support for overseas Filipino suffrage, was by 2003 its major opponent. When I spoke with him about the bill in January of 2003, Locsin explained that he was opposed to it because, he said, Filipinos who “abandoned” the Philippines have no right to participate in its governance. I replied that Filipinos in the Middle East, in Hong Kong and Singapore and in other places around the world – who work in slave-like conditions as overseas contract workers to support their families in the Philippines – never “abandoned” the Philippines. The Philippines abandoned them!
Locsin should know that many Filipinos in the US left the Philippines because of their opposition to martial law, as some like Ninoy Aquino and his family were direct victims of martial law.
Poison pill amendment
By the first week of February of 2003, we were informed by the bill’s supporters that Rep. Locsin had offered to drop his opposition to the bill if the sponsors would accept a”friendly amendment”. When we heard what he wanted to include, we were outraged and said “no way!” But we were told that “half a loaf is better than no loaf at all.” If we didn’t accept Locsin’s amendment, we were told, the bill was doomed. The bill’s sponsors assured us: “let’s accept the bill with his amendment and then we will work to amend it after it passes.” We agreed, reluctantly, and the amended bill passed Congress and was quickly signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Feb. 23, 2003.
Imprisonment for ‘not less than a year’
Locsin’s amendment required overseas voters to sign an affidavit that they intend to return back to the Philippines within three years of registering to vote abroad. Section 24.9 then states: “Immigrants and permanent residents who do not resume residence in the Philippines as stipulated in their affidavit under Section 5(d) within three (3) years after approval of his/her registration under this Act and yet vote in the next elections contrary to the said section, shall be penalized by imprisonment of not less than one (1) year, and shall be deemed disqualified as provided in Section 5(c) of this Act. His/her passport shall be stamped “Not allowed to vote.” Not less than one year???
Though we feared that this draconian penalty would discourage any sane person from registering to vote, more than 350,000 actually did, many believing that the affidavit requirement would be removed sometime soon so they need not fear incarceration.
In that same year, Congress also passed the Dual Citizenship law otherwise known as the Citizenship Retention and Re-Acquisition Act of 2003 where a natural-born Philippine citizen who automatically lost his/her native citizenship due to naturalization as a citizen of a foreign country, would now be eligible to apply for Dual Citizenship, a right enjoyed by citizens in more than 99 countries around the world.
But when duly sworn dual citizens registered to vote for the 2004 Philippine presidential elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) rule that they were not eligible to vote in Philippine elections because they had not established a one-year residency in the Philippines, a “defect” that was remedied in the case of immigrants and OFWs by their executing the affidavit of intent to return within 3years.
Nicolas-Lewis vs. Comelec
Confronted with the Comelec’s refusal to allow them to register and vote in Philippine elections despite their reacquisition of Philippine citizenship, Loida Nicolas-Lewis and nine other Filipino-Americans filed a petition for certiorari and mandamus with the Philippine Supreme Court on April 1, 2004 to order the Comelec to allow them to register and vote in time for the May 10, 2004 presidential elections.
But by the time the Supreme Court ruled on the petition of Loida Nicolas-Lewis, on June 10, 2006, the issue of the petitioners’ right to register and vote in the May 2004 elections had been rendered moot and academic. But, writing on behalf of a unanimous Court, Justice Cancio Garcia noted that “the broader and transcendental issue tendered or subsumed in the petition, i.e., the propriety of allowing “duals” to participate and vote as absentee voters in future elections, however, remains unresolved.”
The Supreme Court then ruled that “there is no provision in the dual citizenship law – R.A. 9225 – requiring “duals” to actually establish residence and physically stay in the Philippines first before they can exercise their right to vote. On the contrary, R.A. 9225, in implicit acknowledgment that “duals” are most likely non-residents, grants under its Section 5(1) the same right of suffrage as that granted an absentee voter under R.A. 9189.” In other words,” duals could register to vote without having established residence in the Philippines.
In fact, the Supreme Court noted, “it is very likely that a considerable number of those unmarried children below eighteen (18 ) years of age had never set foot in the Philippines. Now then, if the next generation of “duals” may nonetheless avail themselves the right to enjoy full civil and political rights under Section 5 of the Act, then there is neither no rhyme nor reason why the petitioners and other present day “duals”… be denied the right of suffrage as an overseas absentee voter.”
The Nicolas-Lewis v. Comelec Supreme Court ruling opened the door for dual citizens to register and vote in the 2007and 2010 Philippine elections. In fact, there is some evidence that at least in the US, most of those who registered to vote for the 2007 and 2010 elections were dual citizens. “Duals” do not face the risk of going to jail for “not less than one year” as single citizens do.
Reason for low registration
When Rep. Locsin visited the San Francisco Philippine Consulate on November 8, 2008, he asked why so few overseas Filipinos registered to vote in Philippine elections. I told him it was his fault, it was because of the affidavit of intent to return provision he inserted in the 2003 OVA law. Rep. Locsin agreed that in light of the unanimous Supreme Court decision in the Nicolas-Lewis case, there was no longer any justification for the affidavit of intent to return. He promised that if he were reelected to the Batasan, he would sponsor a bill to remove it from the OAV law. But he was termed out of office.
Out of the 350,000 “single citizen” overseas Filipinos who registered to vote in 2004, more than 248,000 of them failed to vote in the 2007 and 2010 elections. At the OAV Summit held at the Comelec headquarters in Manila on September 28, 2011, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes declared that under Philippine election law, Comelec was required to remove these voters from the list of qualified voters for the May 2013 elections for their failure to vote in two consecutive elections.
I explained to Chairman Brillantes that because the affidavit of intent to return had not yet been removed from the law, many overseas voters reasonably feared that voting in the 2007 and 2010 elections would be evidence that they did not return back to the Philippines within three years as they promised in their affidavits. The possibility of incarceration for “not less than one year” discouraged them from exercising their right to vote.
No delisting of overseas voters?
Chairman Brillantes assured the OAV Summit attendees that those who registered to vote in 2004 elections and did not vote in the 2007 and 2010 elections would be allowed to vote in the 2013 elections.
However, on December 14, 2012, the Comelec reversed itself and voted to remove the 248,000 voters from the Comelec’s voter rolls.
This reversal drew the outrage of delegates attending the 2nd Global Summit who formed a delegation to meet with Comelec Chair Brillantes on March 1, 2013 to discuss the removal of the 248,000 overseas Filipino voters. As a result of the meeting, the Comelec reversed itself again and voted on March 5, 2013 to re-enfranchise all the delisted overseas voters if they show up at the Philippine Consulates where they originally registered in 2004 and fill out a manifestation of intent to vote.
With less than two weeks to go before the May 13, 2013 Philippine elections, the number of previously delisted voters who have shown up at the consulates to reclaim their right to vote has been pitifully low. One reason is that these overseas Filipino voters are still fearful of incarceration if they vote.
To disabuse them of this fear, whether real or grossly exaggerated, all that would be necessary is for Aquino to sign the Amended Overseas Voting Act into law as it includes a provision nullifying the affidavit of intent to return.
When OVA arrived in Malacañang
According to sources within the Commission on Overseas Filipinos (CFO), the OVA bill that was approved by Congress on February 7, 2013 has only been received in Malacañang this week, a snail pace that was the result of a byzantine congressional bureaucracy.
Although the Bicameral Conference Committee Report was approved by the Senate on February 5 and then approved by the House on February 6, the “consolidated bill” was not formally transmitted by the Senate Legislative Bills and Index Services to Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile for his formal signature until March 18, 2013 and Enrile did not actually sign it until April 1, 2013. It was then transmitted to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte on April 5, 2013 for his formal signature. Speaker Belmonte signed it only on April 29, 2013 and it was then when the OVA bill was formally transmitted to Malacañang for the signature of Aquino.
Aquino’s advisers may be informing him that there is no immediate need to sign the OVA into law now because the registration of overseas voters for the 2016 Philippine national elections will not begin until October 31, 2014. What Aquino should know is that perhaps as many as 248,000 single citizen Filipino voters abroad are waiting for him to sign a law that will remove for them the threat of a criminal penalty for failing to return back to the Philippines within three years of registering to vote in 2004.
President Aquino, please sign the Overseas Voting Act into law now. ASAP. There is so little time left.
Last edited by Sam Miguel; 05-06-2013 at 09:13 AM.
FORMER SENATOR Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), now leader of the Heritage Foundation, knows that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is likely to judge that immigration reform — including eventual citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants — will be a shot in the arm for the U.S. economy. After all, the CBO has done so with previous such legislation. That explains why Mr. DeMint, a bitter opponent of legalization, has launched a preemptive attack on the CBO — “puppets of the Congress,” he called the office the other day — and why Heritage has issued a study slamming amnesty for unauthorized immigrants as a drain on taxpayers.
The Heritage paper, chock-full of assumptions that most economists dispute, is a blatant attempt to twist the immigration debate. It concludes that newly legalized immigrants would cost $6.3 trillion more in benefits over their lifetime than they would pay in taxes. (That’s $5.3 trillion more than they would cost without legalization, the think tank said.) The study updates a similar one by Heritage in 2007, which pegged the fiscal cost of amnesty at that time at a mere $2.6 trillion.
There’s no question that granting the full range of government benefits to illegal immigrants — even if they become eligible for citizenship 13 or 15 years from now — will impose long-range fiscal costs. However, most economists say the costs of illegal immigration would be far outweighed by the benefits of legalization for overall economic activity,growth,business start-ups and labor market efficiency.
That’s not news for the construction industry in Arizona, where hostile state laws have driven away thousands of illegal immigrants and builders have scrambled to find scarce workers. It’s not news on farms from coast to coast, where more than half the labor force lacks documents and growers worry that their crops will go unpicked without a system to legalize unauthorized migrant workers.
Moreover, by ignoring the effects of legalization on the overall economy, Heritage failed to take into account the effects on federal revenue as workers emerge from the shadows to start businesses, travel without fear of arrest and deportation, earn higher wages and contribute to job creation.
The authors of the Heritage study acknowledge that the population of illegal immigrants, most of whom lack high school diplomas, would impose no greater burden on the budget than native-born Americans and legal immigrants with similar educational levels would. What Heritage really objects to is redistributive government programs, which one of the study’s authors termed America’s “cradle-to-grave welfare state.”
Influential Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, rolled their eyes at the Heritage report with varying degrees of politeness. In a letter last month to Heritage, Mr. Rubio, who has risked his political future and putative presidential aspirations to champion immigration reform, noted that the real impact of legalization and citizenship must take into account “both its baseline costs and its impact on growth.” Mr. Barbour, who doesn’t appear to be running for anything, could afford to be more blunt. “It’s a political document,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s not a serious analysis.”
That’s true, as the CBO is likely to make clear when it publishes what is certain to be its more dispassionate, and less political, assessment of the proposed legislation. In the meantime, lawmakers should bear in mind that waves of previous immigrants — Irish, Italians, Jews, Germans and others — have been greeted by prophesies of doom. Still, the United States thrived — with the help of those same poorly paid, roughly educated newcomers whose integration triggered such derision.
Anti-Filipino graffiti slams Fil-Ams; police probing it as hate crime
INQUIRER.net U.S. Bureau
4:19 am | Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
UNION CITY, California–A vandal or vandals defaced Filipino-American establishments over the weekend by spraying graffiti anti-Filipino messages, and police are investigating the case as a hate crime.
UnionCityPatch.com http://unioncity.patch.com/, a hyperlocal news site reported that those targeted were the Toppings Too restaurant, the Filipino Advocates for Justice office and the Filipino Community of Alvarado and Vicinity building, which houses various offices including the Union City Chamber of Commerce.
The pieces of graffiti appear to be written in the same handwriting. Though the identity of the perpetrator is unknown, the graffiti appears to name two ethnic groups.
On the Filipino Community building, located at 3939 Smith St., the vandal crossed out “Filipino” and wrote “Mex” above the word “community,” with “f— Filipinos” underneath.
Similarly, the graffiti scrawled on Toppings read “Mex” and “f—- Filipinos” on one side of the restaurant’s entrance door with “AMS” on the other, suggesting possible tensions after the renaming of Alvarado Middle School after Filipino-American labor leaders Larry Itliong and Philip Veracruz.
Members of the Filipino-American community were saddened to see such divisive messages in the community.
Tracie Noriega, a member of the New Haven Pilipino American Society for Education, said in a statement that the acts of vandalism are “extremely disheartening.”
“It is also disheartening that the vandalism is claimed by and against two ethnic groups that have roots in very similar experiences,” Noriega added.
“The formation of the United Farm Workers Union was grounded in inter-ethnic solidarity to fight oppression. It was in the spirit of unification that the Mexican and Filipino Farm Workers struck together for better working conditions. As a Filipino-American community, we continue to stand with all of our neighbors in peace and unity.”
Christopher Cara of the Filipino Advocates for Justice echoed similar sentiments.
“The best thing we can do is move forward in the spirit of building,” he said.
“Graffiti that incenses any group by race constitutes a hate crime,” said Cmdr. Ben Horner of the UCPD.
According to Horner, a hate crime is a felony and could be punished with civil fines and prison terms, depending on how much vandalism occurs.
Meanwhile, the Union City Police Department is urging anyone with information to come forward.
Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to contact Union City police at 510-471-1365. Anonymous tips can be left at 510-675-5207 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Influential overseas Filipino groups endorse candidates on basis of competence, integrity
By Ted Laguatan
12:11 pm | Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Overseas Filipino voters can positively change the quality of Filipino leaders and the quality of Philippine government. In general, overseas voters cannot be bought or coerced. They earn money through honest hard work and hired gun toting goons are not around to intimidate them to vote for certain candidates. As such, given the proper objective information about candidates, they will vote for the best candidates. They are in fact the best voters that money cannot buy.
The US based US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) chaired by philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis and the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC), a global organization of community leaders from several countries – are two of the most influential organizations among Filipinos overseas. USP4GG has effectively lobbied with both the Philippine and US governments for policies, decisions and legislation that have benefited Filipinos everywhere. GFDC is recognized by the Philippine Commission on Filipinos Overseas as a global organization of Filipino community leaders from different countries whose goal is the betterment of life for Filipinos overseas and those in the Philippines.
The lawyers for both groups, Atty. Rodel Rodis and myself, appeared last March before the Comelec and successfully persuaded the Chairman and other Commissioners to reinstate some 239,000 overseas Filipino voters who were disenfranchised for failing to vote twice. Rodis argued that the failure was not out of apathy but because of circumstances beyond their control. I argued that while Congress gave the power to Comelec to remove voters who failed to consecutively vote twice, it also gave Comelec the power not to remove them. In other words, I pointed out that Comelec is not absolutely mandated to remove voters who failed to vote twice – but in fact is given the discretion to remove or not to remove – and suggested that common sense and wisdom factors compel the Comelec to exercise their discretion to reinstate the disenfranchised voters.
To their credit, Chairman Brilliantes and Commissioner Grace Padaca listened to our reasoning and in a subsequent Commissioners’ en banc meeting, reinstated 239,000 disenfranchised overseas voters. I respectfully urge Comelec to continue exercising its good discretion not to disenfranchise in the future overseas voters who fail to consecutively vote twice. They usually fail to vote not out of apathy but because the ballots did not reach them for some reason or another which is not their fault.
USP4GG and GFDC have drawn up a list of Senatorial candidates whom they have endorsed. The list serves as a voting guide for overseas Filipinos as well as for those in the Philippines. Using the same objective criteria, it’s probably not surprising that the candidates endorsed by both groups are a mirror image of the other except for the addition of Teddy Casino in the GFDC list. Both organizations are non-partisan and selections of the endorsed candidates were based on: competence, integrity and a track record of accomplishing observable good results that benefit people.
The Senatorial candidates endorsed by USP4GG and GFDC are listed below. (Not listed according to priority preference):
1. Loren Legarda 2. Alan Cayetano 3. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. 4. Edgardo “Sonny” Angara 5. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 6. Risa Hontiveros 7. Bam Aquino 8. Grace Poe 9. Edward Hagedorn 10. Eddie Villanueva 11. Teddy Casiño (endorsed by GFDC only)
The Partylist endorsed by both USP4GG and GFDC is Akbayan Citizens Action Party.
According to the Philippine Commission on Filipinos overseas, about 11 million Filipinos live and work abroad in 217 countries. Of these, only about 915,000 Filipinos overseas are registered to vote. Many more would have registered if there had been no condition in the Overseas Absentee Voting Act (OAVA) which required them to sign an affidavit promising to return to the Philippines. If they do not sign the affidavit, they cannot register to vote. On the other hand, if they sign the affidavit, they are compelled to return to the Philippines within three years or face imprisonment.
As such, thousands have refused to register because of this oppressive condition. A typical comment among OFWs: “Sure, it’s important to vote, but would I give up my right to stay and work abroad to support my family in just to vote. That would be stupid.”
How did such an onerous provision which clearly infringes on a citizen’s right to vote get included in the OAVA? A certain Congressman named Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin insisted for it to be included. My understanding from those who followed the hearings on this legislation is that Locsin repeatedly questioned the patriotism and loyalty of overseas Filipinos for the simple reason that they left the Philippines to live and work abroad. He insisted that this anomalous condition be embedded in the OAVA.
Knowing the chilling effect of this required “promise to return” condition on potential overseas voters, the US based US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) – embarked on two courses of action: File a petition to nullify this condition in the Philippine Supreme Court – and also get the Philippine legislature to amend the OAVA to get rid of the offensive “promise to return” condition. In both actions, the USP4GG prevailed. The Supreme Court decided in the case of “Nicolas et al v Comelec” that the condition does not apply to Filipinos who have dual citizenships. And just a few months ago, the Congress of the Philippines amended the OAVA where the draconian condition was removed and the word “absentee” was also removed from the title of the law: “We are not absent when it comes to helping the Philippines.” OAVA has now become Overseas Voting Act. (OVA).
President Aquino should sign this into law anytime now. While it’s too late for this new law to have any effects on the elections next week, it certainly will have an impact on the 2016 elections. With the removal of the offensive Locsin condition, more overseas Filipinos will register to vote.
Another reason why many overseas Filipinos are not able to register is because registrations have to be done at Philippine Consulates or Embassies. So many live and work in far flung areas such as in the Alaskan fisheries processing plants, distant oil fields in the Middle East, isolated towns in the US or else work in ships that are constantly at sea.
Even for many of those who have registered, some still cannot vote sometimes as the ballots for voting have not reached them because they have either changed addresses or else work as crewmen.
In order to maximize the number of overseas Filipinos registering and voting, there is little disagreement as to the need to make online registration and voting online. Hopefully, by next year, online registration and voting will already be installed.
While the present number of registered overseas Filipino voters is not yet overwhelming, their numbers will eventually increase due to the changed legislation removing the “promise to return” condition and online registration. Moreover, in a very real sense, their ability to generate more votes eventually will be more obvious when they become more aware that they can influence their Philippine relatives to whom they send financial aid – to vote for certain candidates. As such, aside from the billions of dollars and other currencies overseas Filipinos send to the Philippines – which has improved and sustained the economic life of the country – they will also eventually positively change the quality of government leaders and government in the Philippines – for the good of all.
For OFWs like myself, to see a better Philippines where thousands of talented bright Filipino children can develop to their full potentials as human beings instead of digging through dirty smelly garbage cans for scraps of food just to survive – is a dream that I hope will someday come true.
This was the question posed to me by a curious TV reporter on May 7, just three days after a stretch limousine traveling across the San Mateo Bridge carrying nine Filipino nurses to a bridal party suddenly burst into flames killing five of the occupants, including the bride.
When she interviewed me in my law office in San Francisco, Ann Notarangelo, the reporter who is the weekend anchor of CBS 5′s Eyewitness News, explained that she was only asking the question because it was on the minds of her viewers. She thought I might know the answer as I taught Filipino American History at San Francisco State University and I am the legal counsel of the Philippine Nurses Association of Northern California. Plus, I added, I am also married to a Filipino nurse.
Ann said that she was frankly surprised to learn that 20% of all the registered nurses in California are Filipinos, a considerably large percentage since Filipinos number only 2.3 million (officially 1.2 million) out of a state population of 38 million.
“I never noticed it before,” Ann told me, “because I generally don’t see people in racial terms.” But, she said, in reflecting back on all the times she visited friends and relatives in hospitals all over California, she now recalls seeing Filipino nurses everywhere. Not just in California, I said.
There but not quite there
The seeming anonymity of Filipino nurses in the US – of being there but not being quite there – is likely no more. The video clip of the fire-engulfed limousine was the top story in the US over the weekend. The media reported that the fatalities included Neriza Fojas, 31, a newlywed bride who was planning to get married again in the Philippines in June; Michelle Estrera, 35, the bride’s Maid of Honor who worked with her at a Fresno medical facility; Jennifer Balon, 39, and Anna Alcantara, 46, of San Lorenzo, who both worked at the Fruitvale Healthcare Center; and Felomina Geronga, 43, who worked at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland.
Americans also learned about the nurses who escaped the fire and were treated for burns and smoke inhalation: Mary G. Guardiano, 42; Jasmine Desguia, 34; Nelia Arrellano, 36; and Amalia Loyola, 48. In a TV interview shown all over the US, an anguished Nelia Arellano blamed the limo driver for failing to stop immediately and for selfishly refusing to help them get out of the burning limo.
As the TV camera started rolling, Ann posed the question to me: “Why are there so many Filipino nurses in the US?”
There are push and pull factors that are at play, I explained. The main push factor is the poor Philippine economy where an average RN earns only about 5% of what an RN is paid in the US. The main pull factor is the nursing shortage in the US.
Americans should not to be too surprised at the large number of Filipinos in the US. After all, the Philippines was a US colony from 1899 until the Japanese occupation in 1942 and, some would argue, a “neo-colony” for many decades after the Philippines was granted independence by the US in 1946.
It does not surprise the British to see many Indians and Pakistanis in England, nor does it surprise the French that there are many Algerians in France. They understand that people from the colonized countries generally tend to gravitate and immigrate to their “mother” countries, even after their native countries were granted independence.
Four waves of immigration
There are four waves of Filipino nurse immigration to the US.
The first wave came after the US began its colonization of the Philippines and needed local health care professionals to meet the health needs of the subject population which is why the US Army recruited Filipinos to work as Volunteer Auxiliary and Contract Nurses.
Under the Pensionado Act of 1903, Filipinos were sent to the US as government-funded scholars (pensionados) including those pursuing a nurse education. Some of those who stayed for employment as nurses in the US went on to form the Philippine Nurses Association of New York in 1928. The association’s first president was Marta Ubana, who completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Many other pensionado nurses returned back to the Philippines to help set up and manage the 17nursing schools that were established in the Philippines from 1903 until 1940.Large numbers of the graduates from these nursing schools thereafter immigrated to the US as, unlike with the Chinese and Japanese, there were no immigration restrictions against them since Filipinos were considered “US nationals” and even traveled with US passports.
One of the pioneer Filipino RNs was Isabel L. Mina who graduated with a nursing degree from the University of the Philippines in 1919 before working at the Mary Chiles Hospital in Manila. Together with two other Filipino nurses, Josefa Cariaga and Petra Aguinaldo, Isabel boarded a ship in 1921 to go to Hawaii where they worked in a hospital before moving to California. The three close friends then boarded a train and traveled to New York where they worked in a local hospital for several years before deciding to return back to Manila.
Information about Isabel Mina was obtained by her San Francisco-based granddaughter, Lissa Sobrepena, who found out about her grandmother’s exploits when she logged on to Ancestry.com. For a fee, the website showed her photos and documents of her grandmother including copies of the two passport applications Isabel Mina filled out when she lost her US passport while traveling in the US.
What stunned Lissa was learning that her grandmother’s best friend was Petra Aguinaldo, who quite coincidentally, just happened to be the grandmother of her husband, Robert Sobrepena. Neither Lissa nor Robert knew that their grandmothers – who died before they were born – were close friends and that they had traveled together across the US as RNs.
The next big wave of nurses from the Philippines began in1948 when the US State Department set up an Exchange Visitor Program to “combat Soviet propaganda”. According to Catherine Ceniza Choy, associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History (Duke University Press, 2003), owing to the “special relationship” between the mother country and its former colony, a large percentage of the exchange visitors came from the Philippines, and many of them were nurses or nursing students.
Among these nurses was Maria Guerrero Llapitan who came to the US in 1948 to take post-graduate nursing courses at Baylor University in Texas. Maria had served as the supervisor of the operating room of a hospital in Bataan before it fell to the Japanese invaders in 1942. After completing her postgraduate studies at Baylor, Maria moved to Chicago to work at the Cook County General Hospital where she met her fiance. She then went to Hunter College for Women in New York to get her nursing degree while working at Sloane-Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York.
Maria married her fiancé in San Francisco where they set up a family in 1951. She later was among the Filipino nurses who formed the Philippine Nurses Association of Northern California in 1961.
The third wave of Filipino nurse immigration to the US came after 1965 when US Immigration laws were liberalized to allow Filipino nurses and other professionals to immigrate to the US. It also allowed Filipino nurses to come to the US on tourist visas without prearranged employment and to then adjust their status in the US.
During this period, the number of nursing schools in the Philippines soared from 17 in 1940 to 170 in 1990 to more than 429 at the present time. Many of these nursing schools were diploma mills exploiting the desire of many Filipinos to enter the nursing profession.
Unfortunately, as a result of the only 15-20% of the Filipino nurses who immigrated to the US after 1965could pass the state nursing board exams. This led to the establishment in 1977 of the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) to help prevent the exploitation of graduates of foreign nursing schools who come to the United States to work as nurses but who can’t pass the nursing board exams here.
The CGFNS developed a pre-immigration certification program that consisted of: a credentials review; a test of nursing knowledge (CGFNS qualifying examination), and an English-language proficiency examination (TOEFL).
Since 1977, CGFNS has administered more than 350,000 tests to approximately 185,000 applicants in 43test sites worldwide. From 1978 to 2000, the data showed that 73% of CGFNS test takers came from the Philippines, followed by the United Kingdom (4%), India(3%), Nigeria (3%), and Ireland (3%).
Menchu Sanchez immigrated to the US in 1980s and has worked as an RN for more than 25 years, the last three years at the New York University Langone Medical Center. When Superstorm Sandy battered New York last October, Menchu was taking care of 20 at-risk infants in the Intensive Care Unit of her hospital.Sandy knocked out the electric power to the hospital causing Menchu to organize the nurses and doctors to carry the babies in warming pads down 8 flights of stairs to safety. Menchu was invited to sit beside First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Nation address of US President Barack Obama on February 12, 2013.
In his speech, Pres. Obama cited Menchu as a role model: “We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, she wasn’t thinking about how her own home was faring. Her mind was on the 20 precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.”
Many Filipino nurses who entered the US on H-1work visas after passing the CGFNS tests benefited from the passage of the Nursing Relief Act of 1989 which provided for their adjustment to permanent resident status if they had H-1 non-immigrant status as registered nurses and had been employed in that capacity for at least 3 years.
But the “sunsetting” of this law in 1995 effectively decreased Filipino nurse immigration to the United States.The passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1998 (IIRIIRA) further discouraged nurse immigration to the US.
Grow your own
The passage of restrictive legislation was fueled by nativist fears of foreign nurses taking American jobs as was expressed in July of 2009, when former Washington DC Mayor Marion Barry complained to the press: “In fact, it’s so bad, that if you go to the hospital now, you find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines,” Barry told the Examiner. “And no offense, but let’s grow our own teachers, let’s grow our own nurses — and so that we don’t have to be scrounging around in our community clinics and other kinds of places — having to hire people from somewhere else.”
Grow your own nurses the US did. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, US nursing schools produced close to a million nurses from 2006 to 2011.
While the demand for Filipino nurses may have waned in the US, the demand for Filipino nurses in the rest of the world did not diminish. Filipino nurses working for the National Health System (NHS) in England drew international attention last February when Britain’s 91-year-old Prince Philip, while on a tour of a new cardiac centre in Bedfordshire, England, turned to a Filipino nurse and said: “The Philippines must be half-empty – you’re all here running the NHS.”
Not quite, not by a long shot, your majesty.
According to Reuben Seguritan, general counsel of the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA), the Philippines is the world’s largest supplier of foreign-trained nurses with 429 nursing schools and 80,000 nursing students. To place this number in perspective, City College of San Francisco, with 89,000 students, does not have the resources to accept more than 75 students into its nursing program. The nursing students are chosen by lottery from a list of about 500 students who otherwise qualify for acceptance, a selective system practiced by community colleges all over California.
Is there a fourth wave of Filipino nurse immigration to the US?
Yes, but it hasn’t arrived yet. According to recent CNN report, “Demand for health care services is expected to climb as more baby boomers retire and health care reform makes medical care accessible to more people. As older nurses start retiring, economists predict a massive nursing shortage will reemerge in the United States.”
The CNN report adds: “We’ve been really worried about the future workforce because we’ve got almost 900,000 nurses over the age of 50 who will probably retire this decade, and we’ll have to replace them,” [economist and nurse Peter] Buerhaus said.”
The fourth wave may come as early as 2014 when the US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, comes into effect and about 30-40 million Americans without any health insurance will finally be covered by health care insurance
LPG Marketer’s Association party-list Rep. Arnel Ty believes that Obamacare will “stimulate” the US hiring of foreign nurses. “This will hopefully spur US demand for new foreign nurses and other health practitioners such as pharmacists, physical therapists, medical technologists, radiologists, and speech pathologists,” Ty said.
To another question posed by the TV reporter, I answered that do not know the exact number of Filipino nurses in the US. All I know is that number, whatever it is, was significantly reduced by 5 on the evening of May 4, 2013.
Chances of immigrating to US improve for Pinoy vets’ children
By Jose Katigbak,
STAR Washington bureau
(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 24, 2013 - 12:00am
WASHINGTON – Some 20,000 adult sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans moved closer to their goal of immigrating to the United States when a US Senate committee unanimously voted to fast-track their visa applications.
The Senate judiciary committee by voice vote agreed on Tuesday to include the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification amendment to a landmark Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIB) bill that will be considered by the full Senate next month.
The amendment introduced by Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono aims to speed up the reunification of veterans who have become naturalized Americans and their adult children living in the Philippines.
Naturalized citizens who petition for their adult children or siblings generally have to wait for at least a decade 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, immigration lawyers said.
Eric Lachica, a spokesman for the Washington-based American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV), said about 20,000 adult children of living or deceased Filipino-American war veterans who have approved petitions to immigrate will have immediate priority in getting visas once the CIR bill is passed by the US Congress and signed by President Barack Obama.
Ed Navarra, chairman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), thanked Hirono for pushing the amendment.
Other amendments submitted by Hirono failed, including one that would have provided limited relief for families due to prolonged separation from their siblings or children not in the US.
“This is extremely disappointing,” said Navarra. “We are nonetheless appreciative of the senator’s determined efforts to fight for families and speak for millions whose voices aren’t often heard.”
The comprehensive reform bill seeks to give some 11 million people living in the US illegally a chance at citizenship.
Filipino WWII veterans used to cover up for senators’ inaction on family unification
By Emil Guillermo
INQUIRER.net US Bureau
1:35 am | Sunday, May 26th, 2013
It used to be the victims of the Japanese American internment camps.
Now it’s the Filipino veterans of WWII who provide the penance and cover for politicians and all their sinful ways.
Last week in Washington, D.C., Celestino Almeda, a frail 96, and the spokesperson for the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, gladly acknowledged and thanked the members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for passing an amendment by voice vote that would speed up the immigration process for their families.
Currently, the Filipino WWII veterans who were able to immigrate to the U.S. remain separated from their families. Many of the relatives who wait to be re-united have done so for more than a decade.
The amendment, introduced by Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, would allow adult children of living or deceased Filipino American WWII veterans to get immediate priority for visas if the bill is approved by the full Congress and signed by the President. The coalition estimates that 20,000 visas could be issued because of the amendment.
That’s great. But it was the lone family reunification amendment out of 11 submitted by Hirono that was voted in by her colleagues on the committee.
And that’s the tragedy of this new effort for comprehensive immigration reform. It’s not quite comprehensive enough. Family unification, the kind that Teddy Kennedy fought for, no longer is at the heart of the matter.
Now it’s all a about border security, making sure undocumented people don’t get in scott-free for breaking the law.
It’s also more about money ties rather than blood ties.
Your family here? So what? The visas for siblings and older married children have been eliminated. And Hirono’s amendments to restore them failed.
But industries that need workers get their visas. Facebook and friends, get their stem workers.
Manang Baby and Manong Boy, sorry na lang. We’ll send you a balikbayan box, but not a visa.
The exception? The veteranos, who have had to fight for the slow drip of benefits from Congress over the years.
Didn’t they win their fight for equity a few years back? Not entirely. There’s still the matter of proving service (not helped when records were lost), as well as a fight over pension benefits for those in the Philippines, and this matter of family re-unification.
Meanwhile, Congress has continued to use the veterans for political purposes. Every time legislators need a “feel good” moment, they slice off a bit of justice owed to the veterans, and then show off about what a good thing they’ve done for these aging warriors.
It was a ready-made ploy for the immigration bill.
In reality, it was all political show biz and a sop to Asian Americans, since both the House and the Senate have already approved similar measures to speed up the visa applications of veterans’ older children.
More than 200 Asian American groups signed an open letter to the committee backing the family unification efforts of Hirono, defining it as a major community issue.
But only the veterans and their families got some good news in time for Memorial Day in the U.S.
The politicians shouldn’t expect us to be happy as they greet us at their holiday events.
Groups will feel the sting of compromise and say they’re “disappointed.” But that’s not enough. The push should continue for an immigration reform policy that’s more humanistic than corporate.
That would be an immigration bill worthy of our community’s total support.