LOS ANGELES - With the immigration debate heating up and proposals being considered, Filipinos spent the weekend at an immigration workshop, trying to secure their citizenship and the current benefits for citizens.
More legal residents like Valentine Cuenca are applying for their US citizenship. He was among hundreds that came to a citizenship workshop hosted by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) in conjunction with the city of Los Angeles and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"From time to time, year by year there's changes to immigration reform. That's why for as long as I can today, I will finally make a filing," Cuenca said.
"A lot of people are afraid they won't be able to bring their family members here so the workshop has drawn a lot of folks out so that they can preserve and make sure that their family members can come," Joyce Noche, APALC staff attorney, said.
As the US Congress works on immigration reform, one proposal by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham includes limiting the number of family-based petitions, while issuing more job-based visas.
Noche says one specific provision that Asian American immigration advocates have lobbied for is faster family petitions for Filipinos who wait an average of 20 or more years before they can arrive.
This latest proposal is a disappointment for their cause.
"Many of our Filipinos are here because of petitions by brothers and sister, and those are closest family members and we believe immigration reform should make sure that families can stay together. So it's important for people to come out and share their stories of how they came to the United States. To say if they came through a brother or sister and say how much they've contributed to the United States," Noche said.
Cuenca, knows what the backlog is like, waiting 23 years to come to the United States. He eventually entered on a sibling visa.
Now that he's been in the US long enough to qualify for a citizenship, he doesn't want to take any chances with immigration reform bill.
"I lost hope during that time, because for almost 20 years, waiting waiting, I've been expecting that I'll be coming here, now that I'm here I don't want to make a delay for the application of my siblings, and my second, and four children from my first wife," Cuenca said.
While the immigration overhaul is still being worked on, immigration advocates remind those waiting for the reform that no provisions are final yet and a cleared picture is expected next month when Congress is expected to have a bill.