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and various Organizations and Institutions
|Message of the Migrant Heritage Commission
To Our Migrant Family on Immigration Scenarios
Under the Trump Administration
The Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) considers all migrants in the Filipino American community as our Migrant Family. Isa lamang ang ibig
sabihin nito. If you are family, this means only one thing: Your problem is our problem. In these uncertain times, we reaffirm our commitment as
We would like to assure our Migrant Family in the Filipino American Community, and the Migrant Community in general, that MHC will continue its
advocacy on migrant and immigrant rights in this great nation. MHC will, separately or in coalition with other immigrant rights groups, redouble our
efforts towards this goal.
In our advocacy for immigrant rights, we shall continue to demand and campaign for a sound, reasonable comprehensive immigration policy
based on the principle that immigration is about economic opportunities and progress, family unity and humanity.
Last November 8, voters elected Republican candidate Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. President-elect Trump will be
inaugurated as the nation’s 45th President on January 20 next year. His term of office will be four years.
We all know the campaign promises Candidate Trump made about mass deportations of 11 million people who entered this country without
authorization, or have overstayed their visas. We heard Candidate Trump vowing to build a wall to secure the U.S. border.
It is important to differentiate Candidate Trump from President Trump. Already, President-elect Trump has modified his position on these two
campaign promises. He announced this on November 13 in an interview on CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes.” He said only criminals would be
His exact words are these: “What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers,
where a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million…” out of this country. This is similar to the current policy under the
Obama administration. What is the difference? Under President Obama, only convicted felons are being deported, or those who have undergone
trial under the justice system.
Frankly, we do not know if President-elect Trump will change his mind again once he is in office. Let us, therefore, remain vigilant. Let us guard
our rights and our liberties. We will join other groups to achieve results, because truly, “There is strength in numbers.”
Benefit of the Doubt
Having said this, let us give President-elect Trump the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, we at MHC express our warmest congratulations to our next
President and set of leaders. And we hope and pray that President Trump will truly be the “President for all Americans” – as he said in his speech
on Election night – regardless of race, ethnicity, ancestry, political creed, religious beliefs and gender orientation. We need to MOVE FORWARD.
This is the realistic direction for all to take. We set aside partisanship and help the new administration in building a brighter and better future for
America and for the next generation. We pledge, however, to maintain our utmost vigilance. We will resist and campaign against national policies
that reinforce racial prejudice, bigotry, and misogyny.
We are in this together. Permit us to share with you some key advice.
1. INFORMATION IS POWER. But it has to be accurate AND up-to-the minute or the latest information.
2. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. What are your rights under existing laws? First, regardless of your status, you are entitled to make one phone call to a
lawyer, when you are accosted by a law enforcement officer who is specifically and duly authorized to do so.
3. GET HELP FROM THE RIGHT PEOPLE.
Consult only Licensed U.S. Immigration Attorneys and respectable Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with in-house immigration
attorneys to help them navigate the complex immigration options available. Notary Publics and so-called Immigration Consultants are not
authorized to give legal advice. In fact, doing so is considered unauthorized practice of law and a criminal act.
Immigration Scenarios under the Trump Administration
Here are some immigration scenarios in the Trump Administration, and what they would mean to Filipino migrants, as well as to Filipino
Americans sponsoring their families. Although keep in mind that there’s always the possibility that things can change in the months ahead.
1. If President Trump adopts his campaign’s immigration rhetoric as immigration policies, then the more than 500,000 undocumented Filipinos
across the nation have a reason to be alarmed. Expect disruptions and strict regulations on immigrant visas allocated for the Philippines, whether
they are family-based or employment-sponsored visas.
2. If the campaign promise to ban the entry of citizens of countries with terrorist groups (extreme Islamic groups)–which the Philippines has with
the Abu Sayaf in Mindanao–becomes policy, it means immediate suspension of visa processing and strict vetting at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, if
not a complete halt while the U.S. government figures out a more concrete immigration policy towards the Philippines.
3. If President Trump fulfills a campaign promise and scraps the 2012 and 2015 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) under his
Executive powers, the undocumented would face the worse nightmares of their lives. After experiencing a sense of normalcy, getting out of the
shadows and starting to build their future with their temporary work permits and their own Social Security numbers, once again they could be
facing a return to “immigration limbo.”
Under 2012 DACA, an Executive Memorandum and not a law, some 700,000 undocumented immigrants, including Filipinos, who entered the U.S.
as children have been granted temporary work authorization, Social Security numbers and relief from deportation.
Republican National Party Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC-TV the day after the election, referring to President-elect Trump: “He’s not
calling for mass deportation,” or the mass rollback of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (President-elect Trump has since
then picked Priebus as his White House Chief of Staff.)
Speaker Paul Ryan of the U.S. Congress told CNN on November 13, “We’re focused on securing the border...we are not planning on erecting a
deportation force…Donald Trump’s not planning on that.”
These are encouraging news, for starters. Still, we should withhold judgment–until a complete immigration policy is made official in the Trump
Administration, one which is sound and humane and with all the Big Picture and nuances addressed.
4. Removals and Deportations can be done administratively and before the Immigration Courts. Because we observe the rule of law and there are
fundamental due process requirements, an undocumented immigrant cannot be simply removed or shipped out from this country. But there are
certain types of immigrants that can be administratively removed without going to the Immigration Courts, especially those who have committed
crimes classified as aggravated felonies.
5. There are mechanisms in place where the undocumented can challenge immigration actions of President Trump because they are illegal,
unfair or violate due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. We should remember that our democracy is strong and intact
and we follow the principles of checks and balances and separation of governmental powers: Legislative, Executive, Judiciary. And we can use
the Courts to challenge illegal immigration actions if they are implemented.
Of course, the extra legal remedies through peaceful protests, mobilization and lobbying should be resorted to as well. To be sure, it will not be
easy for all of us. But we must remain hopeful and optimistic that President Trump will come to his senses and be a realist.
6. A policy to deport the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants is not only inhuman. It is also very unrealistic. Already, top economists are
cautioning President-elect Trump that his immigration policy, if implemented, would hurt the nation’s economy. They cited as examples the hotel
and construction industries, which employ many undocumented.
It is also noteworthy that more than 30% of Trump supporters are against the policy of mass deportation. Indeed, three in ten Trump supporters
favor a comprehensive immigration law that will legalize the undocumented immigrants already in the United States.
We Will Be All Right
We are hopeful that if President Trump decides to build a wall as part of securing our borders, that he considers building a bridge over that wall
and a big door in the middle of it. Because the essence of America is that it has one big heart for immigrants. Indeed, America is great because it
is a Nation of Immigrants. For years, immigrants have been contributing to its progress in science and technology, business, and arts and
cultures, among other fields.
President-elect Trump will assume office on January 20, 2017. MHC is calling all immigration advocates to join with the immigrant rights
community groups and individuals for the next two months in planning, assessment and evaluation of several immigration options available to us.
We are optimistic about the future. We will be all right. We will face the challenges together. And whenever and wherever you need strength, there
is always our faith. Our Lord Jesus reminds us in the Bible: “Let not your heart be troubled/You believe in God, believe also in me/And whatsoever
you ask in My Name, that will I do/that the Father may be glorified in the Son. /Peace I give you, my peace I give you/Not as the world giveth, give I
unto you. /Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Likewise, let us remember the optimism and confidence as embodied in two popular Philippine sayings: “Kaya natin ito” and “Habang may
buhay, may pag-asa.” (We can do this. Where there’s life, there’s hope.)
God bless the Philippines, and God bless America! God bless Filipinos, and God bless Americans!
Rev. Arnedo S. Valera, Esquire
Co-Executive Director, Migrant Heritage Commission
U.S. Immigration Attorney for nearly 25 years as Managing Attorney for the Law Offices of Valera and Associates PC
Also specializes in International Law and Human Rights
Co-Executive Director, Migrant Heritage Commission
Co-Executive Director, Migrant Heritage Commission