SAN FRANCISCO, California - Thousands of immigrants and immigrant rights supporters protested in front of Senator Diane Feinstein’s office in San Francisco, calling on the Senate to start working on bills, including the one filed in the House of Representatives last December that provides comprehensive immigration reform programs.
The House bill seeks to shorten the waiting time for family petitions and offer a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants and their children.
“We want our legislators to know that they need to focus on the immigration situation now. We only have a few months until the November elections and we need a bill introduced in Senate in the next few weeks,” said Attorney Chris Punongbayan of the Asian Law Caucus.
Addressing the crowds, California Senator Leland Yee said with the passage of the healthcare reform bill, President Obama can champion another controversial issue in congress, because undocumented immigrants do more for the country than the country has done for them.
“America depends on the work of these immigrants. They work the fields, they clean the rooms in our hotels, and they take care of our children. And now that they want to legally stay here, we say no to them,” Senator Yee said.
There are about 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US and an over 3 million in California who don’t have legal status.
Jessie Sevilla, a legal Filipino immigrant, says providing the undocumented a path to citizenship would be unfair to those who got their visas and green cards the long and legal way.
“I don’t think it’s fair. Kasi ako, matagal akong naghintay para sa green card ko eh. I think they should also go through the same system as I did,” Sevilla said.
One undocumented Filipino who requested not to be identified said it’s not that easy getting a visa, especially when you don’t have the means. He says he cannot get a regular job and has five mouths to feed in the Philippines. He says he cannot afford an immigration lawyer or pay the costly immigration fees that are being proposed.
“Kung may means lang ako, di ginawa ko na. Ibig bang sabihin, ang may kaya lang ang may karapatang magkaroon ng papel dito sa Amerika?” the undocumented Filipino said.
The Filipino Community Center says there are more than one million undocumented Filipinos in the US Many of these T-N-T’s are students who cannot get financial aid or pursue higher education because of their status. They say it’s about time the Dream Act is passed, which would give undocumented students immigrant visas.
Another immigration issue these Filipinos want passed is the Family Reunification Act, which would speed up petitions of the children of Filipino War II veterans.
“They fought for the US and they deserve to be with their family from the Philippines as soon as possible,” said Terry Valen, executive director of the Filipino Community Center.
But immigration reform continues to cause division in Congress. Immigration advocates say it would be tough to pass a bill unless more Republican legislators get on board and show bipartisan support. Balitang America