More than 300,000 Filipinos living illegally in the United States could face deportation, Manila’s special envoy to the USA has claimed.
The claim comes just days after President Duterte said he “would not lift a finger” to help any of his countrymen who were breaking US immigration laws.
Special envoy Babe Romualdez said: “I received information from our friends in Washington, that there’s a list from, I think, homeland security that there are about 310,000 Filipinos up for deportation,” he told CNN Philippines.
“These are mostly undocumented Filipinos that they are able to identify,” he added.
The Philippines is not part of Trump’s executive order that recently banned citizens from seven mainly muslim countries from entering America.
However, Mr Romualdez warned warned that Filipinos could be affected as authorities step up efforts to deport illegal immigrants as part of efforts to secure America’s borders.
He suggested that any compatriots in the US illegally should start thinking carefully about returning to the Philippines. “I think they should really be prepared to go home,” he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has recently confirmed that out of 3.4 million Filipinos in the US, just under ten per cent are undocumented.
The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) has been vocal in protests in both California and New York against Trump’s immigration policies.
Aurora David, Secretary General, believes the threat to undocumented Filipinos is very real. In a campaign speech last August, she says, Trump named the Philippines as being among “terrorist nations” whose citizens could be banned from the US. (See our report here.)
NAFCON claims that up to one million Filipinos could be affected by Trump’s policies. “Trump has used anti-immigration words and sentiments and scapegoated immigrants for what’s happening in the US,” she said.
Earlier this week, President Duterte said that if any of his compatriots were in the US illegally, that was solely their own problem. “To Filipinos in the US, you better be on the right track,” he said at a press briefing on Monday.
“If you are not allowed to stay there where you are staying, get out because if you are caught and deported, I will not lift a finger. You know that it is a violation of the law.
“If he has policies to protect his country, I will understand. So, out of respect, I will not interfere.”
Sung Kim, US Ambassador to the Philippines, insisted that Trump’s order wasn’t driven by racism or islamophobia. “This is not racism. This is not unfair prejudice,” Kim said, speaking at a gathering of businesspeople in Manila.
“How do you remain as open as possible, but at the same time make sure that you do everything possible to make the environment safe for your citizens?”
He hoped the next few days would reveal “better clarity regarding the exact parameters of the executive order”.
Kim also said he understood that many would be worried about travelling to the US. “I understand, all of you are worried about visas.
“I want to emphasise that, despite many rumours out there, we continue to welcome Filipino visa applicants.”
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