Story and photos by Jun Nucum
While news from the White House shifts from President Donald Trump re-filing to end the Obama-sponsored Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to Trump “signing an executive order with the road to citizenship for DACA recipients” in the past week, Filipino DACA recipients began sharing their take on the recent Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling in their favor.
Filipino DACA recipients remain wary but hopeful that they will finally have a path to citizenship.
University of California, Davis Sociology Graduate student Roy Taggueg, M.A. who first came to New York when he was seven years old and the only DACA recipient among his siblings who are now married citizens since they came to the U.S. with tourist visas like him.
“The Obama DACA policies gave me the opportunity to work legally. And at the same time continue my studies for higher learning. Without DACA I would not be able to continue and finish my studies. When I got my DACA benefits, the school was able to me so I can pay my way to school — stipend, tuition fees, everything in return,” Taggueg revealed. “ Personally, I felt attacked when President Trump initiated moves to dissolve the Obama DACA program. I won’t be able to finish my PhD studies and being deported was also always at the back of my mind “
Like many Filipinos with unstable immigration status, Taggueg did not participate or attend student forums much less protest rallies as his parents always reminded not to get arrested lest he be deported.
“Now I feel that I can because of DACA. Without it, when I was an undergrad, I couldn’t. I’d rather be in the shadows. That was the way I was taught,” Taggueg admitted. “I was surprised with the Supreme Court decision. I never really thought that could happen because the Supreme Court was full of conservatives and less of the liberals. My other DACA friends were very happy, too. Time to finish my degree was the most important thing that the decision gave me.”
Nevertheless, Taggueg still cannot really feel at ease until there is a comprehensive immigration reform which is not a simple Band Aid solution.
“I hope that Filipinos will finally come out to fight actively for immigration reforms with this Supreme Court decision which for me is a step towards reform as we need real immigration reform. I do not see anything being done by politicians and the Congress in the next months towards the elections,” a realistic Taggueg said.
Taggueg advised those who are affected by immigration problems to organize themselves, go out and talk with their representatives, go out and fight with immigration advocates, not to shy away from developments and fight for their rights.
“This right to citizenship should be given to all as a basic human right regardless of stature and not just because one has so much academic achievement or has become successful. It should be given to everyone, regardless. We should fight for these things because it is the right thing to do,” Taggueg opined.
Las Vegas resident Pierre Miguel Calimlim, a 29-year- old managing partner for Plant Power Foods & Marketing was born in Manila and moved to the United States when he was eight first to San Francisco and then Daily City in 1999.
“I came legally and while growing up I got denied or I got too old before I was able to be processed for a green card. I went to court and they told me I have reached a certain age when I cannot be filed under my dad,” Calimlim revealed. “I started DACA eight years ago, 2011 and it only lasted for 2 years. I would have to renew every time it expired. In my family I was the only DACA recipient. When my dad became a citizen, I was too old to automatically get a green card.”
Calimlim recalled It was hard living even with limited DACA privileges because he had to be out of job for few months as it took a while to get back his work authorization card.
“I lost many opportunities in my life. Now that Trump is still somehow trying to overturn DACA, I feel it is unfair for the rest of immigrants who are under DACA. United State is an amazing country for those with dreams. It feels great to have the Supreme Court say no to overturn DACA,” Calimlim was overjoyed.
Like Taggueg, Calimlim thinks DACA recipients should be given enough leeway and should automatically get a green card after two years because they can work and pay taxes.
“My dream job was to be a police officer and become a detective. Following my dad’s footsteps was my dream. But to become a police officer here in the United States you need to be a citizen,” Calimlim said.
Calimlim laments that living with unstable immigration status has become a dream killer after he failed to get a green card and finished college after being depressed and even thought about giving up on life. But he moved to Las Vegas, starteda new life with his wife and a business with his best friend.
“Like most Filipinos, I didn’t support the rally nor join the rally because at the end of the day, we have to wake up and work hard to earn a living. Going to a rally is just a waste the time. Instead, you can buy your way in to be documented,” Calimlim explained.
Just the same, Calimlim exhorts Filipinos not to live in fear, stand up and keep working hard as nothing bad is going to happen unless one commits a crime.
“Stay positive and build your life the way you want to be. There is nothing wrong in being scared but don’t let it stop you. I found ways to survive and God, who works in mysterious ways, is there. It was God’s design that I was able to apply for and avail of DACA,” said Calimlim.
Newly-retired University of Sacramento Professor James Sobredo recalled he had undocumented Filipino students in his classes.
“Prior to DACA and prior to California passing laws that gave driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and college financial aid, life was very stressful for undocumented Filipinos and other students in a similar situation and this was we regularly discussed in my Ethnic Studies classes,” Sobredo said. “One of my Filipino students even confided that her entire family was deported back to the Philippines and the deportation experience was very traumatic for the entire family.”
Immigration lawyer Johnson Lazaro, for his part, believes the Supreme Court ruling is a monumental victory for Dreamers coming in the heels of the pandemic, civil unrest and protests.
“This DACA victory gives our young people assurance that they can stay in a country that many now call home. However, they can’t let their guards down just yet. The narrow 5-4 Court ruling blocked the Trump administration because it did not comply with procedural requirements. We need to anticipate the next bout and know that there will be a re-match. We need to start preparing for the next fight,” Lazaro warned.