Fil-Am advocates continue to push for immigration reform

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LOS ANGELES – As the partial shutdown of federal government ended on Thursday, Oct. 17, Filipino American advocates continued to push for immigration reform as if the stoppage never happened.

In Pasadena, Filipinos joined immigrant rights activists and religious groups for a prayer vigil calling for the US Congress to come up with a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a pathway to citizenship.

In spite of the federal shutdown putting a temporary halt to Congressional progress in immigration reform, Filipino advocates remained passionate about pursuing their cause.

“We never got off track with the immigration reform bill and the work we’re trying to do to push that reform,” Pastor Jolo Buktaw of the Filipino Migrant Center said in a Balitang America report.

“Unfortunately, it comes at a time when there are a lot of other issues with the government,” Buktaw added.

On President Obama’s address to Congress at the end of the shutdown, he emphasized to the solons the importance of prioritizing immigration reform as work starts resuming in the federal government.

And for this, the advocates are upbeat.

“The immigration bill is one of thes three issues he wants to push forward and move prior to the end of this year. I’m glad the president recognizes its importance,” Buktaw said.

Earlier this year, the Democrat-led Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill. However, in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, the measure faced great opposition because wanted to pursue reform through smaller “piece meal” bills that would individually address specific aspects of immigration.

In San Francisco, undocumented Filipino students risked getting arrested as they participated in protests against mass deportations in front of a local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office.

The undocumented students were joined by over a hundred supporters from the Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights (ASPIRE), Asian Law Caucus, and the national Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON).

Two undocumented Filipino students, Emmanuel Valenciano and Dean Santos, were among the protesters who blocked an ICE bus full of deportees. In spite of the risk of being arrested, both Valenciano and Santos participated at the protest just so they can express their grievances against an immigration system that tears families apart.

“The government is not listening to us, so we’re going to stop this literally with ourselves,” Valenciano told Balitang America.

“I know we’re not going tot completely stop it – but we’re sending a message that we’re fed up. I’m fighting for what’s right and I’m here for my community,” he added.

Santos, who was put on deportation proceedings in the past, said that he knows what it felt like to be in that bus, to be scared.

“I’m not scared anymore,” Santos was quoted saying.

“Look at the power of this community, the power we have right now.”

According to Jun Cruz of NAFCON, their battle cry was “Not one more deportation.”

“It’s not a crime to support your family. It is not a crime to escape poverty and it is not a crime to come here for a better livelihood,” Cruz said.

After the five-hour protest, authorities threatened to file a felony false imprisonment charge against Valenciano and Santos for holding up the ICE bus filled with undocumented immigrants. However, no arrests were made by virtue of the sanctuary policy.

(With reports from Balitang America)

(LA Midweek October 23-25, 2013 Sec A pg.1)

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