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Proposed Bills that Make Immigrant Families Vulnerable

The year 2017 has been challenging for most immigrants. Many Filipino immigrants have been concerned with changes in federal policies and how it is affecting families and employment. The following developments have given reason for apprehensions about the future of U.S. immigration:

Attacking Family Immigration

A bill known as the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) ACT seeks to cut current legal immigration by at least 50%. The serious impact of this bill is in the big reduction of family member categories who can be petitioned, including the limitation of qualified family members only to minor children and spouse of the U.S. citizens. Under the RAISE proposal, parents, adult married or unmarried children and siblings of U.S. citizens petitions are no longer relatives who can be petitioned. In addition, the age of minor children will be reduced to those who are under the age of 18 (from the current 21). For millions of Filipinos who are beneficiaries of family petitions, this bill will be a disappointment for families who have been waiting decades for reunification with their family members. This is definitely a bill that will not bode well for family unification.

Merit-Based System

Without taking into account family unity and the needs of businesses, the RAISE Act proposes to eliminate the current employment system of immigration. It prioritizes skills over family unity by designating a point system for future immigration applicants.

Heightened Enforcement

In his first month in office, Trump released his Executive Order on Interior Enforcement where he ordered changes that now prioritizes enforcement. He ordered for a budget that hires more than 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents that may result in mass deportations. An enforcement only bill H.R. 2431 was introduced by a certain Rep. Labrado (R-ID) that dramatically expands immigration enforcement and criminalizes undocumented immigrants.

Fixing DACA

Young unauthorized immigrants are looking forward to legislation that will provide solution to their predicament given the termination of the DACA program in September of 2017. The DREAM Act was the bill that directly addressed this issue and provided for a permanent solution by granting conditional permanent status to DACA beneficiaries and allows them to become U.S. citizens in 5 years. Other bills like the SUCCEED Act also provided a permanent status but comes with restrictions. Under those bills, Dreamers will be prohibited from sponsoring their children and spouses in order to prevent chain migration. There were also provisions that compel Dreamers to sign away their rights to any immigration benefit or relief like immediate deportation without due process if they commit minor crimes such as driving without license or shoplifting.

All the above bills are contained in the White House Principles on immigration and obviously will have negative impact on many immigrants. The most disheartening proposals are the attacks on family….. the foundation of this nation and the policy behind our immigration law. Our community must continue to advocate for what is right and bring the message to our legislators in their home district this holiday season to support immigration bills that are humane and value family unity instead of forcing them apart.

I waited until December 22 to write about an immigration update hoping that I would bring the good news about a positive development on the DREAM Act. Those who are beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will have to wait until January 2018 to find out whether or not Congress will pass the DREAM Act which is the permanent fix to the DACA program for young undocumented immigrants. This holiday season will still be spent with uncertainty hanging over the future of DACA recipients. While this is a disappointment to many, I am still positive that with hopeful bipartisan support in Congress, there will be an opportunity for passage of the DREAM Act early 2018.

This Christmas, my wish is for more (not less) family unification; and, for the leaders of this country to realize the value of families and its contribution to the strength of our nation.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

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