Fil-Ams react to president’s sweeping actions
BUILD a wall along the United States-Mexico border. Defund sanctuary cities. Limit refugees entering the country by enforcing an “extreme vetting” test.
Some of president Donald Trump’s campaign promises to toughen up on immigration have come to life in his first week in office through the signing of various executive orders, all of which have drawn mixed reactions from Filipino Americans in the U.S.
The president’s actions shouldn’t be surprising as they coincide with the platform he ran on, various Fil-Am Republicans said.
“President Trump made these promises…now he is abiding by [them],” Nelsie Parrado, current president of the UP Alumni Association of America, told the Asian Journal. “There is a big immigration problem in the country today and [he] believes that these are the solutions.”
On Friday afternoon, January 27, Trump signed an executive order suspending the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days and cuts the number of refugees welcomed into the country by half to 50,000. Additionally, it requires vetting measures to “keep radical Islamic terrorists out” of the country, he said.
“We don’t want them here. We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas,” the president said during a speech at the Pentagon ahead of the signing. “We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”
The executive order also suspends visa entry into the U.S. for 30 days from seven countries with predominantly Muslim populations: Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan and Yemen.
Building a wall
The first series of executive orders on immigration came on Wednesday, January 25, directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to begin planning the construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and authorizing the allocation of federal funds needed for its design and construction.
In his remarks at the DHS, Trump said the heightened border security will “improve the safety in both of our countries.”
Dolly de Leon, a small business owner in Las Vegas, argued that, “crimes have been rampant and this administration believes that it would benefit the majority of the American people when the wall is built. Illegal drug cartels are the target, not the immigrants who are good members of our society.”
The White House is considering a few options to fund the wall, including the possibility of imposing a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico. Trump has repeatedly said that Mexico would eventually reimburse the U.S. for the cost of construction. However, Mexico has insisted that the country would not be paying for it, prompting President Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel his meeting with the U.S. leader scheduled for next week.
The DHS is also under orders to construct additional immigration detention facilities and hire 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and 5,000 border patrol agents in order to effect “complete operational control of the southern border.”
“But immigration law really needs to be reformed, but you can’t have that without securing the borders first,” Rudy Asercion, a committee member for the San Francisco Republican Party, told the Asian Journal. “Ultimately, this will be safer for Filipino Americans because when the ‘extreme vetting’ that Mr. Trump is taking about is in place, then we have the opportunity to stop at the borders, people who may be intending to harm us — that’s important for our kids and families.”
Sanctuary cities defiant
A second executive order issued on Wednesday calls for the defunding of “sanctuary jurisdictions” that do not cooperate with the federal government in deporting undocumented immigrants.
“These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our republic,” the order read.
Parrado, who resides in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, expressed her backing of cutting federal funds to areas that don’t abide by the administration’s deportation orders.
“I don’t understand why these cities are helping those who have committed crimes. I went through the immigration process, dumaan ako sa butas ng karayom (I had to pass through the eye of a needle),” she told the Asian Journal. “Why don’t these illegal immigrants find ways to legalize their stay in the country?”
Despite this, mayors of sanctuary cities across the country have said that they will not follow Trump’s order.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said it will “make cities less safe.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti added that it is “not the way forward for the United States.”
“Splitting up families and cutting funding to any city — especially Los Angeles, where 40 percent of the nation’s goods enter the U.S. at our port, and more than 80 million passengers traveled through our airport last year — puts the personal safety and economic health of our entire nation at risk,” he said in a statement.
Further, in his State of the State address, California Governor Gerry Brown pushed back against Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric, pledging to “defend everybody.”
Since the election of Trump, LA has seen dozens of protests on its streets. This week, one was held outside of City Hall hours after the signing of the first executive orders on immigration, while a vigil — with nearly 1,000 participants — was held at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center on Thursday night in anticipation of the president’s order that many regard as anti-Muslim.
“I am fearful because I’m just thinking where will he draw the line with who they’re going to ban on immigration,” Tricia Menchavez, a nurse, said on Thursday. “Who knows how far this thing is going to go. They could target me just because I look a certain way.”
Farzana Nayani, a diversity educator, attended the vigil with her two sons to show them how to stand together as a community.
“The most recent events, especially the executive order regarding immigration, hit too close to home. Although my mother is Filipino, my father is from Pakistan and his country could be on the list next. The world is changing so quickly, I brought my children to the vigil because this will all affect them…,” Nayani said. “I could see adults being inspired by my children being at the event…I think they felt that if a 4-year-old can hold up a sign and stand up for our rights, so can they!”
Standing in solidarity, fate of DACA uncertain
Before the president signed the orders, the White House earlier this week announced that the administration would first focus on deporting undocumented immigrants who have criminal records or pose a threat to the country.
However, Shiu-Ming Cheer, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, said the announcements made are “unfortunately just the beginning” and “far worse than what we had expected.”
“Some of the changes that were announced [Wednesday] are around the broadening the types of ways in which people can be deported and who can be deported,” Cheer said on Thursday, January 26 at a press conference organized by Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Los Angeles.
The past administration had focused on prioritizing deportations for those with criminal convictions. But the new order, Cheer said, would allow “anybody who has ever been charged, regardless of how that charge is disposed of, [to] be a priority for deportation.”
“In some ways, it’s a misnomer to say that there will be priorities because this is such a broad umbrella that it encompasses anybody who at some point in their life might have done something that can be now considered a criminal act,” Cheer explained. “It really would facilitate racial profiling by local law enforcement.”
Immigration groups and activists are also awaiting a decision on the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), former President Barack Obama’s signature program that has spared over 750,000 undocumented immigrants — who were brought to the U.S. as children — from deportation. Trump had previously vowed to eliminate the program once in office.
In light of the actions signed this week, Advancing Justice — Los Angeles is advising undocumented immigrants to seek advice from trusted services immediately. For those DACA recipients hoping to renew, it suggests a consultation with a legal expert beforehand, but does not encourage DACA-eligible immigrants to file new applications.
“We don’t know what will happen with the information that will be given to the new administration, so we highly encourage folks to sit tight for a little bit and see what [the president] will actually do,” Tiffany Panlilio, a legal advocate at Advancing Justice — LA, said. “That way we can optimize the safety of the community as well.”
Though Fil-Ams have not been specifically called out by the anti-immigrant rhetoric as largely as other communities have, immigration advocates said the community should do its part in showing solidarity with others.
“Our community should be worried any time there is an attack on any community because that’s going to impact us, whether it’s Latinos, LGBTs or Muslims,” Anthony Ng of Advancing Justice — LA said. “If we don’t stand up for other communities, who’s going to stand up for us when we’re being targeted? It’s important that we show a message of unity.”
However, supporters of the president’s actions say Fil-Ams and Filipinos shouldn’t be worried.
“There will be some Filipinos not agreeing with me on my support for the president…,” Henry Chen, a real estate agent in Los Angeles, told the Asian Journal. “For me, many of us went through the right way to get our statuses corrected and there are ways in which the good lawyers can help.”
Added de Leon, “Filipinos should not be concerned, most Filipinos are law-abiding, family-oriented and hard working people. Just one week in, President Trump has accomplished a lot that no other American president has ever done for this country.” (With reports from Momar G. Visaya and Eric Anthony Licas / AJPress)