Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

LOS ANGELES – Asian American Democrats watched closely as President Obama delivered his State of the Union Address. Among the attentive viewers were Filipino American Democrats who belong to the group known as Kaya.

During the speech, Obama touched on his goals for immigration reform policy, reiterating that senators are working on a bipartisan bill that would lead to earned citizenship for the undocumented, as well as improving the current immigration process.

“I’m glad he spoke about it today. Making it a priority in his second term. To strengthen our border and have a comprehensive immigration reform,” Michael Inacay, co-chair of Kaya, Southern California chapter, said.

Supporters are hopeful that the bipartisan work being done can advance the immigration overhaul.
They believe the ethnic vote has increased pressure for the president to deliver an immigration overhaul.

A recent Pew Research analysis showed that some 80 percent of Obama’s votes last election came from non-whites, and 52 percent of Filipinos voted Democrat.

“I’m hopeful that it’ll pass Senate and into the House as well. I think now is the time. I think there are enough folks on both sides of the aisle to realize it’s a huge problem and it’s time for comprehensive immigration reform,” Inacay said.

With immigration a high priority for Filipinos, Los Angeles-based immigration advocates have been in Washington for days leading to the State of the Union.

They met with other immigration reform groups as they lobby for legislation that can address backlogs, pave a path towards citizenship for the undocumented, as well as grant labor protections for overseas Filipino workers.

“What’s really important is both the President and Congress have said that immigration reform is a priority and so unlike previous years at comprehensive immigration reform, we have momentum. Both the executive branch and congress seem committed and prioritizing immigration reform, that’s why it’s very important for communities to come out and organizations to come out to start talking about the issues that matter most,” Joyce Noche of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center said.

“We will closely monitor kung anong debates habang they are making all the provisions yung mga details sa itong mga platform binibigay,” Lolit Andrada Lledo of the Pilipino Workers Center said.

Kaya as well as other groups will continue to monitor the progress of immigration reform, especially as they remain in close contact with the White House Initiative on Asian Pacific Islanders.

Though the President has given a six month deadline for immigration reform, Filipinos are cautiously optimistic; knowing many of the proposals may be contentious and possibly take longer to pass.

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