The Philippines is a tiny country, tens of thousands of miles away from the United States. But the sheer number of Filipino immigrants that consistently arrive in the U.S. competes with those of heavily populated countries like India, China and America’s neighbor to the south, Mexico. With a population of just 89 million, the Philippines is dwarfed by China with its 1.3 billion people, India with 1.1 billion, and Mexico with 107 million. Yet Filipinos consistently rank among the top three immigrant groups coming to the U.S. The failure of Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill places immigration status of many Filipinos in jeopardy.
More than 60,000 Filipinos (Pinoys) migrate to the U.S. every year. Most of them are professionals who are immediately absorbed by the American workforce. Filipino nurses, doctors, physical therapists, medical technologist, accountants, dental assistants are only a few of the professionals that the Philippines exports each year. Because they are highly educated and known for their disciplined work ethic, they are quickly embraced by U.S. employers.
However the breakdown of the U.S. immigration system has also placed many pinoys in an immigration limbo. Filipino families are consigned to wait for years and years before they can re-unite with their love ones in the United States. This is because the number of qualified immigrants far exceeds the statutory visa numerical limits that are periodically set by the U.S. State Department.
In addition, tens of thousands of Filipinos continue to evade the immigration police’s radar for fear of being deported or forcibly removed from the U.S. Even though most of them hold employment, pay taxes, send their children to school, and are actively involved in their communities, they live in constant fear. The failure of Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform this year has reinforced the danger of being taken by immigration authorities and placed in removal proceedings. But despite this fear, Filipino families continue to make enormous contribution to the American economy and way of life.
The history of Filipinos in the U.S. can be traced all the way back to 1587 when some Filipinos came to California as advanced scouts for the Spanish expedition. Since then Filipinos continue to arrive and settle in America. They came as laborers in the Hawaiian sugarcane plantation between 1910-1930’s. The next wave came as Filipinos answered the call to arms during World War II when more than 200,000 Filipino soldiers fought side by side against the invading Japanese Army. Many of these Filipino soldiers entered the U.S. after the war but many were also left behind. There are Congressional bills pending to grant benefits to these Filipino World War II veterans.
The long and rich history of Filipinos in America points to why many pinoys consider America to be their homeland. Consequently, it is imperative that the U.S. Congress continue work on a comprehensive immigration reform that can finally give many Filipinos the right to live and work in America.
This article does not form an attorney-client relationship. It should not be relied upon as legal advice.
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