Fil-Am community weighs in on Obama's SOTU address

by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Jan 29 2014 04:45 PM | Updated as of Jan 30 2014 02:54 AM

LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles not only has one of the highest concentrations of Filipinos in the US, but but is a major immigrant hub as well.

As President 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 5 million immigrants who are being labeled as undocumented. I think this is a weak State of the Union address of the President," said Art Garcia, a Democrat.

"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.

"And we will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies, shape a future of greater security and prosperity, and extend a hand to those devastated by disaster - as we did in the Philippines, when our Marines and civilians rushed to aid those battered by a typhoon," Obama said.

"They 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.