Federal shut down jeopardizes Filipino's legal status

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

October 3, 2013

NEW YORK–It’s day 3 of the US government shutdown.

Despite President Barack Obama’s meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday night, there’s still no deal in sight to end the historic government shutdown.

This is bad news for Joel Cruz, an overseas Filipino worker from La Union, Philippines.

Cruz (not his real name), who requested ABS-CBN News not to reveal his identity says he could lose his legal status because of the shutdown.

Cruz, who came to the US in January on a temporary H1B work visa, is in the process of switching to a new employer after his previous contract expired last September 30.

Labor and Immigration Lawyer, Felix Vinluan said, “It’s very difficult doing transfer nowadays, considering the shutdown, because a requirement for the H1B petition to be filed would be to secure an LCA or Labor Condition Application… with the shutdown, the Department of Labor is not doing any LCA’s.”

Cruz’s new employer filed an LCA on September 24 but the shutdown has prevented him from filing an H1B transfer petition without the LCA.

“It normally takes the Department of Labor 7 days to approve an LCA application,” Vinluan said, “Next Thursday, with the shutdown, the new employer won’t have the LCA so magiging out of status na yung H1B beneficiary by Friday next week, yung I-94 card niya expires next week.”

“Dahil sa shutdown, walang pasok yung mga taga Dept of Labor kaya pending yung pag approve ng certified ng LCA ko,” Cruz said, “Malaking epekto kasi siyempre dahil nga sa magiging out of status na ako, wala akong trabaho, hindi ako pwedeng magtrabaho unless mai-transfer nila yung H1B ko.”

The clock is ticking for Cruz’s legal status and he may even lose the field engineer job that he was offered.”

Vinluan says Cruz is only one of his several clients affected by the shutdown.

With 70% of court employees including judges furloughed nationdwide as a result of the shutdown, Vinluan says he is expecting further delays in immigration hearings.

Vinluan says his Filipino clients who are victims of human trafficking were scheduled to be interviewed by the US Attorney General Wednesday, has been postponed indefinitely.

Vinluan said, “Last Friday I got a call from the US Attorney General’s Office, they told me don’t bring your’ clients because we are anticipating — we are going to have a shutdown , so there won’t be an office yesterday so hindi natuloy ang aming investigation.”

Vinluan says as the shutdown lingers – case backlogs in the nation’s 59 immigration courts are expected to experience further delays until the US government re-opens.

“Wala naman talagang koneksiyon yung Obamacare sa pag promulgate ng budget for this new fiscal year, sana they come to their senses and come up with the solution very soon,” Vinluan said.

Cruz said, “Siguro tapusin na nila yan, at ayusin na lang nila para mag-open na lahat ng mga offices para lahat ng mga pending mga applications ay maituloy na at maipasa na nila.”

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com

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