Undocumented Pinoys in US worry about work, deportation
When John Quidilla, an undocumented Filipino, applied for President Barack Obama’s deferred action program that would allow over 800,000 undocumented young immigrants to remain in the United States and obtain work permit, the 24-year-old former New Yorker and now Texas resident began having some misgivings about the whole process.
What if Barack Obama is not re-elected in November and the new president decides to revoke the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” as Mr. Obama’s program is known.
“Mitt Romney is opposed to any policy that would allow the undocumented, including those who came here as children, to become legal residents unless they serve in the military,” Quidilla told the Filipino Reporter in a phone interview.
“If Romney wins and repeals DACA, then all of our efforts to fix our lives will go to waste, along with our hopes and dreams.”
Quidilla is not alone, according to a Wall Street Journal article last Monday, the flow of applications for DACA has been slowed by concerns about what they must disclose and uncertainty about who will be the next president.
Immigration attorneys say the outcome of the election is a source of concern because Romney has taken a tough stance on illegal immigration.
During the first three weeks when DACA began accepting application starting Aug. 15, nearly 40,000 individuals applied, according to records.
The level of activity so far is a fraction of the potential number of eligible immigrants.
Quidilla submitted his application Aug. 29, with the help of New York-based lawyer J.T. Mallonga, who is assisting Quidilla on behalf of the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF).
“There was some kind of relief when my application was filed, gumaan nang konti ang pakiramdam ko,” he told the Reporter.
“But then I also got worried kasi there’s really no assurance...hindi sigurado kung ano ang mangyayari. Kung mapapabuti ba o mapapasama.”
Born in Saudi Arabia, Quidilla was 12 when he came to the U.S. in 1999.
He finished high school here and earned his bachelor of fine arts degree in arts and technology last May at the University of Texas in Dallas.
With Mr. Obama’s latest directive, Quidilla disclosed he intends to pursue his education with a master’s degree in arts and technology this fall.
“There is no guarantee that I can find a job right away so I’d rather go back to school and be productive,” he said.
Quidilla and the entire family came to the U.S. legally through his father, Nelson, an exceptional engineer who held H-1B visa.
But his immigration nightmare began when his father succumbed to an illness in 2008 before the young Quidilla could become a legal resident, rendering his father’s approved permanent residency application voided.
With his father’s death, the family endured financial hardships, lost their home to foreclosure, and were forced to take odd jobs for friends and their church.
While the rest of the family eventually adjusted their status in different circumstances, Quidilla was the only one left without legal status.
On Nov. 2, 2011, he got picked up at his home and briefly detained and has since been placed in deportation proceedings.
Mr. Obama’s DACA program is Quidilla’s last hope to remain in the U.S.
Up to 1.7 million immigrants — 30 years old and younger who have lived continuously in the U.S. for five years — could benefit from the deferred program, according to Migration Policy Institute.
About 1.2 million are eligible to apply immediately, with another 500,000 reaching the minimum eligibility age of 15 in a few years, the non-partisan institute estimates.
The largest number of potential applicants — 460,000 — is in California, Florida, New York and Texas also have many undocumented youth.
Under DACA, successful applicants will not be deported and will receive a Social Security number and work permit.
They must reapply every two years to remain in the U.S. and work legally.
“A lot of people are waiting to see what happens Nov. 6 before deciding whether to take the plunge,” Maurice Goldman, an immigration attorney in Tucson, Arizona, told The Journal.
Goldman said he has filed only 20 applications, or only about a third of the prospective applicants who have come to his office seeking consultations.
Mr. Obama announced the immigration policy shift, a significant exercise of executive authority, after failing to convince Congress to pass an overhaul of the immigration system.
His administration has deported record numbers of illegal immigrants.
The government has said application information will not be shared with immigration enforcement.
But “many people aren’t applying because they fear their families could be at risk of being deported,” said Tabbata Castillo, a 26-year-old undocumented Venezuelan in Nashville who has helped run information sessions for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. - Filipino Reporter