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Trump’s bid to restrict legal immigration will harm Filipino families

There are almost 400,000 family petitions already filed by Filipino immigrants waiting for visa availability. These immigrants and their families play by the rules and are patiently waiting for their priority date to become current. With the proposed changes approved by President Donald Trump to eliminate these visa petitions, many will lose out on their opportunity to be with their families in the United States. While there is a grandfather provision that will create exceptions; this will not be enough as it will only cover a limited number of petitions.

If passed into law, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arizona) and David Perdue (R-Georgia) and endorsed by President Trump will substitute the current immigration policy based on family unity into a rigid merit-based system.

Proposed changes
The current immigration system is broken and outdated. Family immigration petitions for adult children and siblings take decades before visas become available. There are also increasing backlogs in employment petitions.

In response to the call for comprehensive immigration reform, Republican Senators Cotton and Perdue came up with a proposed legislation that does not resolve any of the outdated immigration provisions of the law; instead it worsens the current state of family-based immigration.

The RAISE Act proposes to cut immigration by at least half from current levels. It eliminates family-based immigration preference categories by restricting ability of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to petition for family members. Only spouses and minor children can be petitioned. Parents, siblings and adult children will be eliminated as beneficiaries of petitions.

Trump’s reason for supporting the RAISE Act was to demonstrate “compassion for struggling American families” who deserve “an immigration system that puts their needs first and puts America first.” This rationale is based on the premise, rightly or wrongly, that immigrants take jobs away from Americans.

Immigrants continue to build strong communities that foster business development or local businesses. In Silicon Valley, many innovators of big businesses were started by immigrants who came to the country through family-based immigration.

There is also a study published by the Immigration Policy Center showing that family-based immigrants contribute to the well-being of the current and future labor force. The value of extended families in US households, with members who take care of grandchildren or seniors needing care, is overlooked as adults work or are engaged in their businesses outside their homes. Filipino immigrant households find it common to have their lolos (grandfathers) or lolas (grandmothers) around to help take care of their children or do household chores. It is the family unit that inspires every worker or businessman to strive towards success and leads them to positively contribute to the growth of the US economy.

To deny the ability of a US citizen to petition for a parent is a direct attack on a right of a US citizen. Besides, if the goal is to attract the best and highly skilled workers, who would want to immigrate to a nation that does not welcome their family?

The RAISE Act was just introduced, and the debate on its merits just started. We still have time to send out the right messages to our legislators and emphasize the value of family. The merit-based system and the family-based petition system can go hand-in-hand as they can surely complement each other so long as the number of visa allocations are not reduced.

(Atty. Lourdes S. Tancinco is a San Francisco based immigration lawyer and immigrant’s right advocate. She may be reached at law@tancinco.com, facebook.com/tancincolaw, or 1 888 930 0808.)

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