Mixed reactions from FilAms coast to coast on SOTU address

By Don Tagala and Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Jan. 29, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – “Let’s make this a year of action.”

These words alone set the tone for the year ahead in President Obama’s administration.

Obama made it clear that he is determined to do what it takes to accomplish his unfinished agenda, with or without congress, even if it means using executive orders.

“What I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.” Obama said in his State of the Union speech Tuesday. “Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Filipino-American Legal Defense and Education Fund member Patricia Astorga said: “A President in his second term has all of the powers to use that executive office, now especially, when he’s not seeking re-election the next term to really accomplish the objectives that he set out to accomplish at the beginning because now he has less political pressure.”

Obama’s speech packed a punch when it comes to big ticket items such as comprehensive immigration reform, where about 11 million undocumented immigrants could benefit from legalization and possibly a pathway to citizenship.

“I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same,” Obama said. “Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone.”

“So let’s get immigration reform done this year,” he added. “Let’s get it done. It’s time.”

If passed, possibly up to a million undocumented Filipinos would benefit from this most awaited piece of legislation.

“He should stop playing as if he’s helpless,” Anak-Bayan USA’s Yves Nibungco said. “We urge him to really use his executive powers to suspend and put a moratorium on all deportations because it doesn’t make sense for our communities to be deported while we’re talking about immigration reform, so he needs to act now.”

After four years into recovery, the US economy has slowly improved but many Americans are not quite feeling fully recovered because of income inequality.

Corporate profits grew faster than businesses create jobs – and the US economy still has not fully gained back the 8.7 million jobs lost in the recession.

“Average wages have barely budged,” Obama said. “Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by—let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.”

Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10.

“Easy to remember – 10,” Obama said. “So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise. Give them a raise.”

Obama’s push for a higher minimum wage resonates well for many American workers including Filipinos, but some kababayans say a $10 minimum wage is still not enough.

Nibungco said, “We agree that the minimum wage should be increased until $15 per hour because history has proven that by increasing minimum wage, it encourages, it stimulates the economy.”

Obama proudly mentioned that America responded to help the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda

“We will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies,” Obama said. “And extend a hand to those devastated by disaster—as we did in the Philippines.”

The US is one of the first countries to send aid to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda devastation.

Meanwhile, as Obama delivered his State of the Union address, eyes and ears were eagerly waiting for what he had to say about immigration reform.

Several watch parties were held during the State of the Union address, as they waited for waiting for the President to talk about immigration reform.

Ears perked up as he brought up the subject about 30 minutes into the speech.

“Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system,” Obama said.

While a large Latino contingent gathered at the Coalition for Humane Immigration Reform Los Angeles, a handful of Filipinos gathered at the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles to listen to the President’s remarks.

Immigration reform has been a hot button issue since the past administration.

President Obama emphasized immigration reform, which has stalled in the past months, can help the country’s economy.

“I already think it’s an empty word. He’s not even threatening to make a direct action or executive order to legalize the five million immigrants who are being labeled as undocumented. I think this is a weak State of the Union address of the President,” Art Garcia, a Democrat, said.

“He said that this year the broken promises might be settled. So I hope that this year immigration reform will really come in this year,” Dr. Veronico Agatep, a Democrat, said.

Austin Baul, a Republican, said, “He really likes this immigration reform to be implemented as soon as possible. I think he will use executive authority.”

While Filipinos have been waiting for immigration reform since the previous administration, they blame conflict between Democrats and Republicans for the delay since the bill passed the Senate last summer.

The President’s remarks on typhoon Yolanda operations also drew mixed reactions from Filipinos, especially as they also pursue another form of immigration relief for Filipinos—temporary protected status.

A temporary humanitarian aid that would give undocumented Filipinos protection from deportations and grant work permits in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda.

“The way he talks that might happen this year. We have to wait,” Agatep said.

“If he has announced he’s giving the temporary protective status to the Filipinos it would be great but just mentioning the Philippines and the aid that United States has given to the Philippines. I think it’s just self-serving,” Garcia said.

A few hours before Obama’s address, House Speaker John Boehner said the House plans on presenting their framework for immigration legislation.

They maintained their position on a step-by-step approach to immigration legislation rather than a sweeping overhaul.

You can contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com and Steve Angeles at steve_angeles@abs-cbn.com for more information.

4 Comments on this post.

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  • catholic_against_extremerightwingers
    29 January 2014 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    Thank you President Obama for doing such a great job in the face of GOP smears
    and attacks. I just wish the republicans would put so much effort into moving the
    nation forward as they do in tarnishing you. I guess obstruction and destruction
    is all that is left to motivate them. I am sure Hillary will do a great job when she
    takes over the office in 2016.

    • libturd
      30 January 2014 at 4:53 pm - Reply

      hehehe…….6 years and all we got is a higher insurance premiums. yes, thanks a lot obama, you have 2 more years to blame everybody except your incompetence.

  • Delia
    30 January 2014 at 6:33 am - Reply

    Cat idiot in La La Land Once again you display the results of chronic cranial rectitis!

    As usual, no substance, all ad hominem

    • catholic_against_extremerightwingers
      30 January 2014 at 7:53 am - Reply

      Speaking like a true DEMON that you always display…..

      The sickest, most dangerous cult in America is the Obama haters.
      Very much like the Third Reich, these lunatics see red with anger. The new face of extremism, fangs dripping with venom, blind with rage, an ugly group, with an ugly agenda. But the will FAIL because there is more good in America than evil, and these haters are on the side of evil.

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