Most entries below contain actual legal discussions of events directly related to Filipinos in or immigrating to the United States.
Remember- These writings are provided for general information only and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. Each person's needs and requirements are different and require a personal evaluation to determine the proper legal course of action.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Panic Among Irregular Immigrants – The Ignored Executive Order on Interior Enforcement

While the media focuses on the Executive Order (EO) attempting to institute entry restrictions, the EO that changed the tenor of interior enforcement has caused fear and panic within the United States, including among Filipinos.

Conservative estimates place the number of Filipinos in the U.S. who have overstayed their visa to be over a quarter million, including Filipinos under DACA, Orders of Supervision or affirmative Deferred Action.

For many years we have lived under a rational immigration enforcement policy that established a list of priority cases to be targeted for removal from the United States.  Serious offenders, dangers to the community and recent illegal border crossers were the target of immigration enforcement actions.  People who did not pose a threat and stayed out of trouble have felt comfortable knowing that they were reasonable safe,

This has now ended with the signing of EO 13768 on January 25, 2017, effectively canceling the prior rational enforcement policies.

Enforcement actions are no longer restricted by the prior enforcement priorities.  In essence, we are back to the old system that allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain whoever they encounter, no longer restricted by the old policies.  A return to random and unpredictable immigration enforcement has led to stress and fear among the irregular population. 

Social media and irresponsible rumor mongering has escalated the fear.  Just look at the panic created when a false rumor was floated that the Philippines would be put on the list of countries barred entry into the United States! 

Once the travel ban rumor ran its course, media coverage of increased ICE enforcement around the country started a second panic.  New rumors are flying about everything from planned church raids to ICE removing children from school to lure their parents into surrendering.  People are hearing they should stay home, keep their kids out of school, and are worried about having contact with the police.

My advice – Calm Down!

Nearly all of the enforcement we have seen this week was directed at persons with criminal convictions or old deportation orders.  Yes, there have been collateral arrests of random persons they encounter during these arrests, and this is concerning but is nothing that was not common before the old prioritized enforcement policies.

Yes, we will see more random enforcement actions, but use rational thought when you hear exaggerated rumors.  Historically, and for me that is over 25 years, Immigration does not raid churches, or schools, or even large public gatherings.  There will always be some aberrant enforcement actions somewhere in the country, usually a poorly planned local enforcement action that National ICE often later apologizes for, but those are the exceptions.

There are some actions you can take now if you are concerned about your immigration situation. 

-Have your situation reviewed by a competent immigration attorney to review your history or any pending case you may be have to learn how that case may effect any attempted removal action against you.  An attorney, as well as many community groups, can also advise you on what to expect should you encounter an enforcement action.

-If you have an outstanding removal order, contact your consulate to update your travel documents.

-Contact your local immigrant community service organization for advise on developing a plan of action should a family member be detained.  That plan can include Powers of Attorney to handle your property or care for your children.

-Attend a local “Know Your Rights” presentation. 

And keep calm!

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