3 March 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Philippines remains supportive of immigration reform efforts in the United States as this provides a chance for Filipino migrants to not only chart a better future for themselves but also to contribute to Philippine and American societies, the country’s top diplomat in Washington said.
“We want all Filipino migrants to have a chance to be able to chart for themselves a future that is not thwarted by fear of impediments but rather emboldened by opportunities that exist for any lawful member of American society,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. told an immigration reform conference organized by graduate students of the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy.
The conference examined the economic, international and political perspectives and consequences of immigration reform and featured as panelists leading immigration advocates, international dignitaries, economic policy experts and the ambassadors of El Salvador, Mexico and the Philippines.
“An increase in the number of Filipinos with legal status is very important as it will lessen the psychological burden and improve the economic standing of Filipino migrants, allowing them to contribute more productively to both Philippine and American societies,” Cuisia said as he reiterated his support for a legislative measure on immigration reform.
The major features of the legislative proposal that would impact on most Filipinos include the adjustment from unlawful to legal status; the establishment of a merit-based system; the elimination of backlog for family and employment-based immigrants; the increase in the number of H-1B visas to be issued; the establishment of a new non-immigrant W-visa; and the proposal for undocumented farm workers obtaining legal status through the agricultural card program.
In addition, Ambassador Cuisia said the Philippines is also supporting calls for the designation of the country under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) following the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan. It is also encouraging Filipinos to avail themselves of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Both programs would allow undocumented Filipinos the chance to stay and work temporarily in the US.
“The vision of the Aquino administration is to be able to create employment for Filipinos so that they do not have to leave the country in order to provide for their families,” Ambassador Cuisia said.
“The Philippine Government looks forward to the day when the Filipino people will not have to leave their country out of necessity and for prolonged periods of time; when the pressure to emigrate will no longer be as much as it was in the past,” he said.
In his remarks, Ambassador Cuisia highlighted the contribution of Filipino migrants to the US economy, from the first wave of migrants during the American colonization of the Philippines to the post-World War II period up to the 1970s.
“Two factors encouraged Filipinos to emigrate: the enactment of labor laws back home that promoted better protection for our overseas workers, and the mandate given to Philippine government agencies to facilitate the deployment of workers. Thus, Filipinos in the US grew from 340,000 in 1970 to 780,000 in 1980 to 1,407,000 in 1990,” Ambassador Cuisia told conference participants.
According to the US Census of 2010, the Filipino population in the US grew 38 percent from 1.8 million in 2000 to 2.5 million in 2010. The population of mixed-race Filipinos, increased 44.5 percent from 2.4 million in 2000 to 3.4 million in 2010. The top 10 states with the largest concentrations of Filipinos are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Texas, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Florida and Virginia.
Ambassador Cuisia said the protection of the rights and welfare of the Filipinos abroad is a major pillar of Philippine Foreign Policy. He talked about the realities experienced byFilipino migrants and the role the government plays to protect their welfare.
“Since the Philippines is a democracy, we cannot, and do not, prevent any of our citizens from taking up jobs outside the country. We have no policies that either promote or deter immigration to the US. The policy of the state is to allow our citizens to exercise their freedom to live and work where they like,” said Ambassador Cuisia.
“Migration is clearly an economic force that has a powerful positive impact on the economy. It has significantly reduced unemployment and raised the standard of living for many families in the Philippines,” he pointed out.
“Worker remittances have buoyed up the Philippine economy in times of international financial crises. In recognition of this reality, the Philippine government’s imperative is to ensure that the rights and welfare of the Filipinos abroad are protected and that the necessary assistance needed is available to them anywhere in the world,” Cuisia added.###