“We are a country where people of all backgrounds, all nations of origin, all languages, all religions, all races, can make a home. America was built by immigrants.” – Hillary Clinton
Excited by the prospect that some 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States might soon be given a pathway to permanent residency and eventually American citizenship, some Filipino TNTs (“Tago Ng Tago”) in New York City with expired visa and passports have started to connect with the Philippine Consulate.
Ruel, 42, a bar tender in Woodhaven, Queens, disclosed his appointment with the Philippine Consulate on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan “has been confirmed on December 8, 2020.”
The RP Consulate, now headed by Consul General Peronila P. Garcia, has required an appointment starting June, 29, 2020 for the following services: Assistance to Nationals (ATN), Legalization/Notarials, Overseas Voting Registration, Passport Application and Pick Up, Travel Document, and SSS.
“At last, I was able to get a slot after several attempts (online),” averred Ruel, a former employee of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines.
Ruel and three other fellow TNTs—Marlon, 54; Rosendo, 37; Michael, 48, have been trying to book for an appointment with the RP Consulate online since August to renew their passports which expired in 2018.
Michael was lucky to pick a slot on December 18, 2020, while Marlon and Rosendo couldn’t get an appointment as of November 9 due to the volume of applicants online.
They were inspired by a “tip” from an employee of a Latino immigration law office in Jackson Heights that “President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. might help illegal immigrants become U.S. citizens through legislation.”
Mr. Biden had vowed to “send a bill to congress” to help the illegal immigrants saying he was confident to clinch a bipartisan support from the senate, which is expected to be dominated by the Republicans.
The tipster exhorted them to also “start paying your taxes (even if they are undocumented).” In case of amnesty, those who pay taxes and with valid passports might be given the priority, according to the tipster.
“(President-elect) Biden is our last hope,” beamed Ruel, a father of two, who overstayed his visitor’s visa in 2014. “I miss my family (in the Philippines) and I hope I can go home soon.”
Ruel, Marlon, Rosendo, and Michael said they are excited and confident to secure their new passports by January 2021 “before the inauguration of (President-elect) Biden.”
More than 40 million people living in the U.S. today were born in another country, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants, according to Abby Budiman of Pew Research Center.
The population of immigrants is also very diverse, with just about every country in the world represented among U.S. immigrants.
The U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 44.8 million in 2018. Since 1965, Budiman explained, when U.S. immigration laws replaced a national quota system, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. has more than quadrupled.
“Immigrants today account for 13.7 percent of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.8 percent) in 1970,” Budiman added. “However, today’s immigrant share remains below the record 14.8 percent share in 1890, when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S.”
Not all lawful permanent residents choose to pursue U.S. citizenship. Those who wish to do so may apply after meeting certain requirements, including having lived in the U.S. for five years.
In fiscal year 2019, about 800,000 immigrants reportedly applied for naturalization.
The number of naturalization applications has reportedly climbed in recent years, though the annual totals remain below the 1.4 million applications filed in 2007.
“Generally, most immigrants eligible for naturalization apply to become citizens. However, Mexican lawful immigrants have the lowest naturalization rate overall,” Budiman disclosed.
Language and personal barriers, lack of interest and financial barriers are among the top reasons for choosing not to naturalize cited by Mexican-born green card holders, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey.
The same survey showed Mexico is the top origin country of the U.S. immigrant population. In 2018, roughly 11.2 million immigrants living in the U.S. were from there, accounting for 25 percent of all U.S. immigrants. The next largest origin groups were those from China (6 percent), India (6 percent), the Philippines (4 percent) and El Salvador (3 percent).
By region of birth, immigrants from Asia combined accounted for 28 percent of all immigrants, close to the share of immigrants from Mexico (25 percent).
Other regions make up smaller shares: Europe, Canada and other North America (13 percent), the Caribbean (10 percent), Central America (8 percent), South America (7 percent), the Middle East and North Africa (4 percent) and sub-Saharan Africa (5 percent).
The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo./WDJ