Report: 280,000 Filipinos are in America ng US illegally
BY RHONY LAIGO
BALITA NEWS SERVICE
WHILE there has been a consistent flow of Filipino immigrants coming to the U.S. from 2005 to 2007, there seems to be no stopping visitors from the Philippines from leaving the country and staying here for good.
In the just released 2007 Legal Permanent Residents Immigration Flow Report of the Department of Homeland Security, the Philippines remained as the third leading country with the most number of legal immigrants who have made the United States their new adopted home.
According to the report, there were 72,596 Filipinos who were admitted in 2007, which is of course a fraction of what is believed to be hundreds of thousands of applications submitted in various family and employment-based categories pending approval at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Along with Mexico, China and India, the Philippines has long wait times in all immigrant visa categories, specifically in the Fourth Preference or sibling petitions, which can take as long as 22 years before they are approved.
The same report said it was in 2006 when more immigrants from the Philippines arrived in the last three years—a total of 74,606 immigrants—a jump of almost 14,000 from the previous year (2005) which had 60,746 Filipinos as new immigrants in the U.S.
However, in another DHS report “Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2006,” Filipinos are among the top overstayers, and are living here illegally. According to the report, there were an estimated 280,000 Filipinos who are undocumented, which is 80,000 more compared to the estimated number of illegals from the Philippines in the year 2000.
Mexico continues to be the leading source of unauthorized immigration to the U.S., the report said, with an estimated 6.8 million illegal immigrants who have either crossed the border without inspection or may have also overstayed their allowed legal visit. Following the country south of the border is the tiny El Salvador, with more than half a million illegal immigrants and Guatemala with 430,000.
The other Asian countries with the most number of estimated undocumented immigrants are from India with 270,000 (6th on the list), Korea 250,000 (7th), China 190,000 (9th) and Vietnam 160,000 (10th).
In the same 2006 report, California remained as the top destination of illegal immigrants, with an estimated 2.8 million illegals in the state. But the biggest jump in the last six years since 2000 was recorded in the state of Georgia—a 123 percent increase—from only 220,000 estimated number of illegals in 2000 that ballooned to 490,000 in 2006. Georgia may have been the next favored state because of its warm climate.
Surprisingly though, the state of Washington had the next biggest increase of illegal immigrants in that same 6-year span, with about 280,000 illegals in 2006 from only 170,000 in 2000—a 65 percent rise.
Texas shares the most number of undocumented immigrants after California with about 1.64 million illegal aliens; next is Florida with 980,000 undocumented immigrants.
Like all other “independent countries,” the Philippines is only allotted seven percent of the total family sponsored and employment preference immigrant visas pegged at 26,120 in a year. The U.S. only grants a total of 373,148 immigrant visas per year.
LOS ANGELES—The first batch of Filipino deportees for the year 2008 was flown back to the Philippines on a chartered flight last April 8 that included other nationalities from Asian countries, Philippine Consulate officials said.
In a news conference held at the Los Angeles consular offices, Consul General Mary Jo Aragon said there were 69 Filipinos who were scheduled to fly out on the same day, April 8, some of whom have served time for various criminal offenses. She said that as a standard procedure, all Filipino nationals were processed by members of the consulate staff for the deportees’ travel documents.
According to Vice Consul Jim Tito San Agustin, like all others who were removed from the U.S., the Filipinos ordered deported were to be handcuffed while aboard the flight. He said the plastic handcuffs will only be removed one hour prior to landing in the Philippines, which has been a big improvement from previous deportations a few years ago when Filipinos, aside from handcuffs, also had to bear shackles on their ankles which removed only after the plane had touched down on the ground.
Agustin said one Filipino consulate staff member accompanied the Filipinos, who were escorted by agents from the Department of Homeland Security.
Vice Consul Charmaine Chua told BALITA that most of the deportees were actually permanent residents and only a handful, “maybe only three,” she said, had overstayed their tourist visas. Under immigration law, even permanent residents get deported after serving their time when they commit crimes that were classified as aggravated felony, and for those who are multiple repeat offenders. San Agustin said most of the deportees had committed moral turpitude cases, whose sentences were at least one year in jail—one of the provisions that would result in outright removal after serving time.
This is why permanent residents should immediately apply for naturalization once they are qualified, immigration lawyer James G. Beirne of Glendale told BALITA. Beirne said this is because U.S. citizens usually are never deported, as he urged anyone who has been a permanent resident for at least five years (three years only for spouses of U.S. citizens) to apply for naturalization.
Beirne said that it’s always been the case for most Filipinos who get deported. They didn’t know that they would be sent back to the Philippines as soon as they get out of jail. “They thought they would be able to get back to their lives here in the U.S., only to find out that they will be driven straight to the airport and shipped back to where they had come from,” Beirne said.
According to Beirne, it is either because of complacency on their part that they remain permanent residents, ignorance of immigration law, or because of some parents who forgot that their children who came here when they were very young also still needed to be naturalized. “They don’t become automatic U.S. citizens, even if they have served in the armed forces, they still need to apply,” Beirne said.
Every year, at least three planeloads of Filipinos get deported. Beirne said “word must come out that permanent residents, these green card holders, must apply to become U.S. citizens as soon as they qualify.”(Rhony Laigo/BNS)