MANILA — Philippine diplomatic posts in the United States are prepared to assist undocumented Filipinos on how they could apply for protection under a new immigration reform policy that was announced by President Barack Obama on Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday.
“We welcome the recent announcement of President Obama granting immigration relief for undocumented migrants meeting the set criteria,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.
Up to five million illegal immigrants, including an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Filipinos, are expected to benefit from the Obama administration’s immigration reform package that will shield them from deportation and allow them to work legally in the US.
Those who have been staying illegally in the US for a minimum of five years and parents of children who are immigrants or legal residents will be given work permits for three years. However, the new directive does not offer them a path to citizenship.
“We have asked out foreign service posts in the US to look into this carefully, and determine how we can best assist our kababayans avail for the protection offered under this proposal,” Jose said.
In a 15-minute televised address, Obama said he is using executive action to enforce a new immigration policy after years of stalemate at the US Congress on a proposed law that will provide relief to millions of illegal migrants.
“The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half-century,” a part of Obama’s statement said.
Republican lawmakers accused Obama of abusing his authority for unilaterally enforcing such measure, calling it an “illegal power grab.” They also vowed to fight it when they take control of congress next year.
To his critics, Obama said: “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”Obama also stressed that the new immigration overhaul does not grant mass amnesty to illegal immigrants.“Mass amnesty would be unfair,” Obama said.
At the same time, he stressed that “mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character.”“What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported.
If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up,” Obama said.