WASHINGTON, D.C. – “We join our friends and Asian Pacific American Islander coalition partners in hailing the passage by the U.S. Senate of a comprehensive immigration measure that is of critical importance to our community,” said Ed Navarra, chairman of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA).
“The approved legislation would fix a broken system that would finally allow families that have spent more than 20 years waiting to be reunited. There is an urgency for this bill to become law especially for our aging World War II veterans who fought for this country’s freedom. Many of them may not live to see another day and be with their loved ones.
“We are also heartened that 11 million undocumented immigrants will now have the chance to come out of the shadows and become U.S. citizens. Like many of us, they came to America to seek better opportunities and a secure future for their children. They have also been constructive and productive in many ways, strengthening families and communities and helping build this proud nation of immigrants.”
Navarra said that of the millions of people without legal papers, two percent or 270,000 are Filipino nationals. “As Ambassador Jose L. Cuisa stated recently, these kababayans don’t deserve to be mistreated. They have contributed immensely to US society through their talent, expertise, persistence and hard work.”
Navarra also noted that another feature of the legislation that will benefit Filipinos significantly is the five-year path to citizenship for DREAMers, young people who grew up American but are undocumented.
Filipino American journalist Jose Antonio Vargas is the most prominent face and voice of these DREAMers. Before coming out two years ago, he spoke before NaFFAA’s national board of directors in Las Vegas and explained the momentous decision he was about to make.
Vargas, who came to the US when he was only 12 years old, was warmly embraced and assured of the community’s support. The Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF), a NaFFAA affiliate, has since provided guidance and counsel to Vargas.
“Now that the Senate has done its part, we want to thank U.S. Senator Maizie K. Hirono of Hawaii for her valuable hard work in the senate judiciary committee,” Navarra said. “As the U.S. Senate’s only immigrant, Senator Hirono fought for amendments that protect immigrant women and families, working closely with colleagues to shape a bill that is fair and humane. We also thank the many leaders, activists and advocates in the APIA community, notably the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) and the Filipinos for Family Reunification, for their leadership throughout the legislative process.” Navarra urged Filipino Americans to get engaged in the next phase of the legislative battle as the US House takes up immigration reform in the coming weeks.