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FEB 2007: Manila Should Not Have Gone Through All the Trouble to Get NCLEX Site
FEB 2007: File now Before Sharp Rise in USCIS Fees
FEB 2007: Consulates No Longer Authorized to Adjudicate I-130s
JAN 2007: Personal Interview Now Required For Visa Applicants
DEC 2006: Proposed Visa Screen Blanket Denial is Unfair
NOV 2006: Hardship waiver of the two year J-1 Residency
JUN 2006: Senate Passes Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill
APR 2006: Compromise Bill Emerges Despite Senate Bickering
MAR 2006: Immigration Reform: Looking beyond border patrols for answers
MAR 2003: Immigrant Visa Processing of Foreign Nurses
JAN 2003: Asylum and the Child Status Protection Act
DEC 2002: Recalculating Age for purposes of relief
NOV 2002: New relief for "Age-Out" cases
FEB 2002: Update: Child Citizenship Act of 2001
JAN 2002: Tips: Preparing your "B" visitor extension requests
DEC 2001: The U.S. economic downturn: How the non-immigrant can weather the storm
NOV 2001: Possible immigration consequences of the events of Sep. 11, 2001
APR 2000: Business immigration
MAR 2000: Employment-based adjustment applicants
FEB 2000: INS clarifies status of H1B woker while on leave
JAN 2000: Immediate opening for nurses
DEC 1999: Practical tips in dealing with the US consulate in Manila
NOV 1999: INS Processing delays and how to live with them
OCT 1999: How to maximize your changes of obtaining a B2 tourist visa
SEP 1999: In the aftermath of  245(i) who benefits?


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MAR 2006

Hope To Pinoy TNT's

By Ernesto G. Ramos, Ph.D.
It seems as though the long nightmare would soon end for thousands of Filipino undocumented aliens, aka as TNTs (tago ng tago), who have been living furtively and working clandestinely in the United States.

Mere mention of immigration agents from the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Patrol or Detention and Removal would strike fear and trepidation into the hearts of countless kababayan, whose tortured lives all these years have been as legendary as those manongs who immigrated to the United States many years ago.

To the rescue comes U.S. Senator John McCain, a Republican moderate from Arizona, former Vietnam war hero and POW, who himself is vying for the U.S. presidency in 2008. Together with U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, this rather strange duo is pushing through their historic bill, S. 1033, entitled "Secure America And Orderly Immigration Act." Other bills have been proposed by other senators, but the McCain-Kennely bill has become the catalyst for undergirding a genuine immigration overhaul.

What is very promising about this bill is that it enjoys bipartisan support from both Republicans and Democrats. Its companion bill in the House of Representatives, HR 2330, is sponsored by Congressmen Jim Kolbe, Republican from Arizona's 8th District, Luis Gutierrez, Democrat from Illinois' 4th District, and Kendrick Meek, Democrat from Florida's 17th District.


Wanting to get a glimpse of the event and file a report for Basta Pinoy News, I was positioned as an ad-hoc interpreter during Senator McCain's early evening town hall meeting held at the Miami Dade College's campus in downtown Miami last February 23. The crowd was a real mixture of South Florida's citizens, immigrants, and would-be immigrants. Others came dubbed pejoratively by strict immigration officials as illegals, while immigration lawyers would rather characterize them as undocumented. Sitting immediately behind the senator and my boss, Congressman Meek, Ranking Member of the US Dept. of Homeland Security's Management, Integration & Oversight, I translated into English the cogent statements and stirring plight of South Florida's Spanish-, Portuguese- and Creole-speaking residents, who were sharing with both McCain and Meek the desire to carve their share of the American dream.

Seating on the stage was a bevy of leaders from South Florida's immigrant community consisting of virtually every country of Central America and South America, the Caribbean nations, and yes, the Philippines. They symbolized America's ordinary workers and their families, who were trying hard to play by the rules and pay the price to put a stake on America's soil. They came, they said, seeking the promise of Lady Liberty:

"Send me your tired -- your poor
Your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these - the storm-tossed,
homeless -- to me
I leave my lamp beside the Golden Door."

To make good this promise was Senator McCain, who has taken on the task of dictating and shaping a historic debate in the halls of the Senate to deal head-on with the challenge of legalizing some 11-million-plus illegals and undocumented aliens, most of them coming from Mexico, our southern neighbor. He unveiled the basics of this bill before a standing-room only crowd -- namely, a realistic comprehensive immigration and border security legislation, payment of a $2,000 penalty fee, application for a 6-yar temporary status, opportunity to have a job under a guest-worker visa via a qualified worker-willing employer arrangement, pay taxes and demonstrate an understanding of the U.S. government.

But they will have to wait to get permanent legal status until after some 3-million aliens currently awaiting legal entry get theirs.

"There is no moving to the front of the line, there is no free ticket," quipped co-sponsor Kennedy. "This is simply not amnesty."



Of course, we Filipinos have added our own unique variation to the mix by calling these illegals and undocumented aliens as TNTs (Tago ng Tago), euphemistically translated as "always hiding" in the underground world of America's barrios and urban enclaves. There is no accurate number of these TNTs, but some say they number in the low 150,000 and in the high 250,000 who managed to linger on for a 20-year period since the 1986 amnesty law came into being and went away unceremoniously.

They represent mainly tourists from our birth country, who decided to stay put in America's urban areas long after their visitor's visas had ended. They may well be our entrepreneurial young men and women desirous of upgrading their skills and knowledge by enrolling in America's institutions of higher learning via the acquisition of student's visas whose expiration dates may have run their course or applicants simply forgot to renew them. They are also those who jumped ship at the end of their contract with their cruiseline agents, or they may well be the contract workers in hotel and construction industries and health care facilities, and their employers either folded up their operation and left them on the lurch, or no longer needed their services.

Some may simply be staying on as the unwelcomed guests of distant relatives who are now naturalized citizens, or they may be the boyfriends and girlfriends of U.S. citizens and/or immigrants, whose love for them may have gone sour and did not have any compunction in discarding them pronto like an unwanted baggage.

Or sadly enough, there may be those Filipinas languishing in utter limbo and suffering in virtual silence, having left their US-citizen or "green-card" spouses because they could no longer tolerate the abject humility from them, or because they have been battered incessantly by physical and economic dislocation, moral and psychological abuse with no one else to turn to, not knowing that battered spouses can now file for themselves under the far-reaching protection of a federal law fittingly called the Violence Against Women's Act (VAWA) of 2000.

Among these are millions of aliens who have created an underground population replete with an underground economy. They come and go, and work in ungodly hours, doing everything and anything asked of them by unscrupulous employers who take advantage of their undocumented, illegal status. Their "take-it or leave-it" situation has demonized America's underground workforce, subjecting them to a modern kind of virtual slavery, succumbing to an "under the table" salary arrangement that is far below America's minimum wage.

These are America's faceless workers - millions of them, working and living in the shadows of the world's richest and most powerful nation. They starkly evoke the hypocrisy of America on one hand, and the degradation of human dignity on the other. It is on their behalf that the McCain/Kennedy immigration reform is now being debated and discussed in the august Senate chamber. While members of Congress would shy away from a mere mention of the word "amnesty," they however symbolize the utmost dilemma that has torn asunder the value-system of American society and our covenant with the rest of world as a "…nation under God - with Liberty and Justice for all."

Thanks to the dynamic McCain-Kennedy duo and the incessant urging of American business groups, this anathema of a theme called "immigration reform" is now finding its rightful place in the Congress. Conversely, however, it's no thank-you to the likes of Congressman Tom Tancredo, Republican from Colorado's 6th District, and his cohorts of apologists and ultra-conservatives, America as our cherished "Land of the free and Home of the brave" cannot and must not be fenced in from the rest of the world by building a massive and expensive thousand-mile wall from its southern borders.

America would be better off spending these billions of dollars toward the construction of new schools, replacing old dilapidated ones in America's urban areas, or fund the health insurance of countless uninsured Americans who cannot afford them, or defray the prescription drugs of America's burgeoning elderly population whose meager funds often force them to choose between buying their medicine or their food.

China resorted to this gimmick centuries ago by building a wall around it, and keeping it from the onslaughts of the pagan uncivilized world. Ironically, that ancient culture was relegated to the ignorance of the dark ages. Until it opened itself up to the spirit of capitalism and entrepreneurship not too long ago, China is now a nation to be reckoned with. Likewise, Germany built a wall that separated itself from its citizens, dividing them into East and West sides of the nation and isolating them from each other under the cloak of a Soviet-dominated communism. In the same fashion, during the mid-80s that wall came tumbling down, and now Germany has taken its rightful place among the world's more successful democracies.

As discussions on immigration reform continue to focus on a guest worker program and find ways to legalize America's undocumented population, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (Republican of Pennsylvania), has spearheaded earnest debates last Thursday, March 2nd on the topics of border enforcement, interior enforcement, the unlawful employment of aliens, the nonimmigrant and immigrant visa reform, backlog reduction, conditional nonimmigrant workers, and immigration litigation reduction. It has also initiated spirited discussions on a temporary worker program under the auspices of Senator Kennedy and Senator Cornyn (Republican of Texas), as well as Senator Grassley's (Republican of Iowa) proposal on developing a border entry/exit system for all aliens coming to and from the United States.

Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican of Utah) filed a novel amendment to the Senate immigration reform that would require a study on licensing private employment agencies to issue guest worker visas.

Whether or not idealistic and pragmatic amendments would strengthen or weaken the Senate's ongoing immigration overhaul, the fact of the matter remains that Senators McCain and Kennedy have staked their refutation and opened the door for an honest-to-goodness immigration reform discussion. Suffice it to say that the 17-member Senate Judiciary Committee (9 Republicans and 8 Democrats) is now coming to take on the challenge of an immigration reform.

In the end, it is truly ironic that the fate of 11-million illegals or undocumented aliens - along with the thousands of Pinoy TNTs - living in the United States is totally dependent upon the judgment of a small bunch of Senators.

What an awesome task these Senators have taken on their shoulders. But such is the onus of American Democracy that the future of so many rests upon the decision of a few. We hope and pray that -- come Monday, March 27 in the year of Our Lord 2006 - these Senators would render a wise judgment to benefit America and the world and that their colleagues in the House would follow suit.

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