Trouble in Paradise
anti-immigration law may unsettle fragile Philippine economy
The future of some 12 million
“unauthorized immigrants” in the U.S., including nearly 1 million
Filipinos, is at stake in two U.S. immigration bills. If the law is
enacted, multitudes of Filipinos will be deported and the
remittance-dependent Philippine economy will face rough waters.
By Reyna Mae L.
The plight of
overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and immigrants in the United States still
hangs in the balance with the recent passage of U.S. Senate Bill (SB)
2611, the equivalent of House Bill (HB 4437) or
The Border Protection,
Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. The act
aims to regulate the influx of migrants in the U.S.
The two bills have to
be consolidated into one bill, though. But if enacted into law, the act
will have far-reaching implications not only on overseas Filipinos staying
or working in the U.S. but also on the Philippine economy which is
York-based Farida Ali, organizer of Justice 4 Immigrants (J4I), said “It
is a terrible reality that as 3,000 Filipinos leave the Philippines each
day, at least 3,000 families are torn apart. The two bills introduced by
both U.S. Congress houses stand to create more difficult lives for at
least 3.5 million Filipinos in the U.S. and the 12 million they support
bills, Ali further said, “will push (both Filipinos in the U.S. and their
families back home) further into the shadows of marginalization, rather
that improve their lives.”
J4I is a
broad, non-profit coalition of organizations focusing on the welfare of
migrants, with chapters in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, San
Francisco, and Seattle.
the economy afloat
the 2005 Survey on
Overseas Filipinos (SOF) by the National Statistics Office (NSO), some
1.33 million Filipinos worked abroad from April to September 2005. On the
other hand, the J4I said that one million more Filipinos went overseas in
2006, citing Philippine government reports.
estimated 10 million Filipinos working or living abroad, at least four
million are in the United States, mostly in California and in the east
coast. U.S. immigration authorities say about 200,000 Filipinos are
staying in America illegally. Independent estimates put the figure at one
most Filipinos who work abroad sending money to their families they left
in the Philippines, a total of $10.7 billion in overall overseas
remittances helps keep the country’s economy afloat with growth pegged at
11 percent. Of this figure taken in 2005, $6 billion came from Filipinos
living or working in the U.S.
trend of dependency to foreign remittances lingers, as the Bangko Sentral
ng Pilipinas (BSP) projected remittances sent by OFWs and Filipino
immigrants to grow by almost 12 percent this year. This is due to
government expectation of higher deployment of Filipino workers,
especially medical professionals.
2611 proposes three approaches for legalization, namely: (1) guest worker
program; (2) expanded detention and deportation without due process; and
(3) militarization and fencing of the border.
provisions benefit only a few Filipino workers who have already stayed in
the U.S. for more than five years, giving them a chance for legalization.
But not for Filipinos and other foreign nationals who have worked there
for less than the given period: They would be deported to their home
from the financial constraints that such a scenario presents, the
stipulations in SB 2611 make overseas Filipinos vulnerable and more prone
to abuse by employers who would take advantage of a desperate pool of
words,” says Robert Roy, the Executive Director of Philippine Forum, a
member organization of the J4I, “the majority of the 12 million
undocumented persons (of various nationalities) in the U.S. will continue
to see no light at the end of their dark tunnel that has kept them as an
underclass forced to live in the shadows. The only people who stand to
gain from this are slave-driving employers and big business who will prey
on their vulnerability and force immigrants into indentured servitude.”
With other reports by Bulatlat
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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