A ‘safe haven’ for illegals in the US

Published on April 11th, 2008

By Alfredo G. Rosario
The Manila Times
April 10, 2008

Of great relief to hundreds of thousands of Filipino illegal immigrants in the US is the reported offer by San Francisco of a “safe haven” to undocumented foreign workers within its city borders.

A news item appearing in one paper the other day quoted San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom that the city is launching a campaign, assuring “illegals” that they are safe from immigration arrests.

There are an estimated 2.7 million Filipinos in the US, of whom 2.2 million have legal papers. The rest, or about 500,000, are undocumented aliens or “TNTs” (tago ng tago).

The US immigration service estimates that there are over 12 million undocumented workers in the US, 33 percent of whom work in the service industries and the rest in other economic sectors.

California hosts the largest number of illegals—2,830,000—with Texas coming in second with 1,640,000. Other states with thousands of illegal aliens are Florida, Illinois and New York.

San Francisco is not alone in offering a “sanctuary” to illegal immigrants. New York, Detroit and Washington have a similar initiative. The illegals in San Francisco, says the report, will be given access to jobs in public services, schools, health clinics and other city facilities.

Rick Oltman, national media director for California for Population Stabili¬zation in Santa Barbara, says the drive “could actually be a boon for other bay area cities if it drew illegal immigrants out of their communities and into San Francisco.”

The campaign has provoked negative remarks from the conservatives who claim that the illegals have violated immigration laws and should be deported. Some sectors, however, favor their presence for helping develop the US economy.

“They serve a purpose in America. They do the job that we don’t because of poor wages,” they explain.

The illegals have been found to be more highly educated than those before them. One-fourth are said to have a college education. As a group, however, they are less educated than other sections in the US.

The increasing number of illegals has become a major issue that is being addressed by the US Congress. There is a legislative proposal to “criminalize” illegal entry into the country.

Congress also wants a policy shift from a family-based to a labor-based admission of immigrant applicants. This means that only foreigners with the appropriate talent and skill will be admitted to work in the US. It does away with the family-based policy which encourages family reunification or promotes family ties.

The family-based policy has been responsible for the immigration of thousands of Filipinos with relatives who have become naturalized US citizens. Most of the naturalized citizens were soldiers in the US Army during World War II and those who enlisted in the US Navy after the war.

The three US presidential candidates—Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, and Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (rivals for the Democratic nomination)—have different views on immigration policy.

McCain is for tightening US ports of entry to control the inflow of illegal immigrants. Obama is for strengthening border security through better technology and more personnel. He favors the faster conversion of legal immigrants into US naturalized citizens.

Clinton has a kinder perspective of the US immigration problem. If elected president, she will make family ties or reunification her guiding principle.

The San Francisco campaign of welcoming illegals, notwithstanding the fears of some sectors, is the first initiative of its kind to be taken by a US city. It is a policy with a human face—one that looks at illegals not as criminals but honest, educated, hardworking people struggling to build a good future in what is regarded as “a land of promise and opportunity.”

The US has evolved into a country of immigrants. The Filipino illegals in its fold have been fired by a sense of enterprise to work and contribute their talents and skills to its economic development.

It is distressing to see Filipino illegals being deported to the Philippines in handcuffs by US immigration, as happened in the past several months. They deserve a more decent and humane treatment.

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