By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Apr 17, 2013

The most sweeping immigration reform bill in America in close to three decades has finally been filed before the U.S. senate floor early Wednesday morning. The 844-page immigration bill, completed by a bipartisan group of senators, could dramatically change America’s immigration system.

Here are the key points which would directly affect the Filipino community:

On the “path to citizenship”, only undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before December 31, 2011 can get a path to citizenship. In the first 10 years, they would have to be in provisional legal status. Thereafter ,it will take these undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S, another three years to become legal permanent residents, and eventually citizens.

Before they could even adjust their status, undocumented immigrants would have to pay $2,000 in fines, plus hundreds of dollars more in fees and outstanding taxes.

On the issue of “family reunification”, the bill focuses on getting spouses and children into the country. But only married, adult children under the of 31, can apply to join their families.

Under the bill, U.S. citizens would no longer be able to sponsor their brothers and sisters. Chris Punongbayan, acting executive director of the Asian Law Caucus said, “The main change that will happen in the next 10 years is that the backlog will be cleared. There are 4.3 million immigrants waiting to be reunited with their families. After the 10 year-period (of fixing the backlog), the fourth preference in family-based petitions will be eliminated and the third-family immigration preference will be limited.”

On work visas, the bill would increase the number of high-skilled work visas from 65,000 to 110,000.

It also plans to create a new low-skilled workers program, with an initial quota of 20,000 temporary workers.

Punongbayan said there are missing pieces to the immigration reform bill, those that impact the Filipino community. One of these is the oversight in including family members of Filipino World War II veterans. He said, “These veterans had petitioned for their adult children in the Philippines but many of these veterans have passed away, and the petition died with them as well. What advocates are planning to do in the next few months as the debate over the bill unfolds, is for an amendment to include the family members of Filipino World War II veterans so they can be reunited with the widows or other children of the veterans who are already living here in the U.S.”

Punongbayan added that advocates are also fighting for the inclusion of family members of the LGBT community in the bill. He said, “America is a very open place but it is missing. This issue, as the weeks unfold, will be something that advocates will fight to be included.”

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One Comment

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  • Delia
    17 April 2013 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Wow , only $2,000 fines ? I was hoping it would be stiff like $10,000 plus back taxes, such as $5,000 for each year they illigally earning money with interest, plus thousand of dollars more in fees when they apply for legal status . make them wait for 15 years or untill all the applicant waiting in line gets here first. Illegal alliens should not get easy pass since they broke the Law.

    No pay , deport , an easy quick way to exit the borders for invaders.