By Marivir R. Montebon
The immigration forum at the Philippine Consulate in Manhattan sponsored by UNIPRO, FALDEF, NAFFAA Region 1, and the Office of the NYC Mayor on Immigrant Affairs had me pondering.
When did TNT (Tago ng tago for Filipino parlance, or incessantly in hiding in English) cease to become a painful joke? I suppose that was when undocumented immigrants have grown in ridiculously huge numbers, it ceased to be a ‘funny’ fact that could no longer be swept under the rug.
There are one million undocumented Filipino immigrants who are TNT, of the 12 million total, in the US, the home of the largest immigrant population in the world.
This growing population is like an epidemic sweeping America. But if taken seriously by lawmakers, this would mean a win-win situation for American society and economy as well as to immigrant families.
People who are TNT may also be likened to the explosive Trinitrotoluene, ready to erupt anytime, especially emotionally. People who are away from their families for a long time or in the margins for so long are simply vulnerable. One cannot be sympathetic enough.
By logic, I am personally sympathetic to immigrants, because I myself is a new one and have been graced to become a writer with special focus on immigration. By logic too, one would ponder why about 12 million people have become undocumented immigrants. No sir. Most people, falling in the normal frame of mind, would not want to be living in the shadows.
So we look at the system that breeds millions of undocumented individuals. It is a broken immigration system. Parents have to wait about 12-20 years to become US citizens when they are petitioned by their naturalized US citizen children. Chances are, when they become US citizens, they are already in their sunset years and could no longer be as productive as when they were young. Many would need intensive health care, and thus a ‘cost’ to government.
I believe that lawmakers must expedite family petitions, because taking in the aging population is more costly as the law of nature so dictates.
America has to shift emphasis from this age-old family immigration system to a work-based immigration system. In this manner, able-bodied and talented individuals are intently admitted into the society to become its productive contributors. Work-based immigration has been proven effective in the developed countries of Canada, Australia, and Singapore. The US can very well do that.
The current bill which is in Congress right now, “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” is a sure leap of hope for America. This 844-page document that addresses border security, undocumented immigrants and the legal immigration system is a milestone in American history.
Immigration lawyer Arnedo Valera says this is a humane and practical piece of legislation and a good start. Lawyers JT Malongga and Merit Salud for their part say it is time.
As legislators begin deliberations today at the Capitol, I feel like we should be in a cheering mode. I say cheers to the lawmakers, America is powered by immigrants, please discuss things passionately and intelligently, for the sake of keeping this country great.