A California-based immigration lawyer on Wednesday said almost 400,000 family members waiting to be petitioned to live in the US will not be able to do so if President Donald Trump implements the "Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment" or the Raise Act.
Atty. Lou Tancinco, a Filipina who heads a U.S. immigration law office, said Trump's plan was "anti-family" because Filipinos with American citizenship will no longer be able to petition their parents and adult siblings to live in the US.
"Almost 400,000 family members of Filipino descent waiting to be reunited with their US citizen petitioners will lose out on their opportunity to immigrate to the US," Tancinco said in the report of GMA News' Mark Salazar for "State of the Nation with Jessica Soho."
"Since the executive actions of Trump were released in January and February of this year, the immigrants who are without legal status became more vulnerable, even those who do not have criminal cases," she continued.
The lawyer said she also saw removal cases being filed and cases of Filipinos being sent back to the Philippines.
As of 2015, the US Census Bureau recorded up to 3,898,739 Filipinos staying in the country.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics estimated that there were about 310,000 Filipinos who entered the US illegally.
Tancinco said a Filipino-American advocacy group is working on counter-measures to lobby against the Raise Act.
There is an opportunity for President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss the new law with US President Donald Trump in November this year.
"If we see that it would affect the interest of our kababayans, I'm sure that [President Duterte] will be taking that up with President Trump in a bilateral meeting should it materialize," said Department of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Rob Bolivar.
For Junneliza Rea, marrying an American citizen is one way of fulfilling her American dream.
"Kwento, ganoon, tapos sabi ng asawa ko hindi daw madali daw po doon, pero siguro po kung masipag ka lang, mag-hanap ka ng trabaho, ganoon po," she said.
Her husband, however, died.
She is one of the people in the long queue outside the US Embassy in Manila. She has brought with her a thick wad of documents that she plans to use to lobby that she and her son be declared American citizens.
"Kailangan ko ng pension po ng anak ko, inaplay ko po iyon para maging US citizen po siya, ang alam ko po after two years ng pagkamatay ng asawa ko, pwede ko pong i-petisyon ang sarili ko," Rea said.
Junneliza's case will most likely not be affected by the Raise Act. However, under the same law the issuance of green cards or permanent residency of one million will be cut by half.
The new law will also favor skilled applicants based on merit or points system like Australia and Canada.
Filipino immigration rights activist and Pulitzer Prize winner Antonio Vargas described the Raise Act as a form of "ethnical cleansing."
"This Raise Act would cut the number of Filipinos who would be allowed to come legally to the united states, This is ethnic cleansing as political policy," Vargas told GMA News.
"I think it's really interesting and should be evident to people that it doesn't matter whether or not immigrants are coming to the United States legally or illegally," he added. "This bill [does] not want all these "people" who are high-skilled enough or have enough merit."
Vargas said he believed that every Filipino and every Filipino American should be "very concerned and alarmed" about the new law. — Margaret Claire Layug/BAP, GMA News