The announcement of amnesty as part of President Barack Obama’s immigration reform plan came as welcome news for millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. The details behind the executive action, however, have been slow in coming and many have found them to be somewhat confusing which is why a number of organizations within the nation’s American-Filipino community have initiated public information drives in response to the President’s announcement in an effort to educate the public in general and the potentially eligible immigrants in particular regarding the specifics of the plan and how it could impact them and their families.
Education is the Goal
So far there have been two public forums to provide information about the policy changes, both in the New York/New Jersey area. One was held in Jersey City and the other in Queens and both were standing room only. The goal of the forums, according to officials with the Filipino Immigrants and Workers Organizing Project, is to assist members of the Filipino community in the Northeastern United States and across the country to develop a clear understanding about the new immigration policy. They want undocumented Filipinos and their families to be as informed as possible “about the resources [available to them] and [the] help that they can get.”
The organizers of FILIWOP say that they recognize the need to educate the community so that they will not become the victims of fraud. Many have already reported having been taken advantage of by people who claimed to be able to help them with their eligibility for the plan’s benefits but who ended up simply “taking the money and running.”
The President’s plan was announced on November 20th and involves what essentially amounts to a three-pronged change in the country’s immigration policy involving increased security at the southern border, a substantial upgrade to the current visa programs in an effort to attract high-tech workers, and relief from the threat of deportation for undocumented immigrants who meet certain eligibility requirements.
DACA and DAPA Policy Changes
Currently there are more than eleven million such immigrants living in the United States, five million of whom it is estimated meet the requirements for amnesty. This would allow them to remain in the country and work legally. The US Department of Homeland Security estimates that of the eleven million undocumented immigrants, just over 300,000 are of Filipino descent. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is still “finalizing guidelines and the application forms”, according to immigration attorney Cristina Godinez, and as such applications are not yet being taken.
USCIS will begin accepting applications in mid-February for the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) expansion while applications for the Deferred Action on Parental Accountability will start being accepted in mid-May. Immigrants who have their DACA or DAPA applications approved will be given relief from the threat of deportation for three years and will also be eligible to work legally. The DACA program expansion in particular will benefit eligible immigrants by taking away the age restriction and pushing the date-of-entry requirement back to a later as-yet-unspecified date.
If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding an immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.