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03 December 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Only less than a quarter of the more than 20,000 eligible Filipino youths in the United States have availed themselves of a program launched by the White House last year to provide temporary immigration relief for undocumented youth.

It was because of this low turnout that the Philippine Embassy, in partnership with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) and Own The Dream, launched today a nationwide campaign to encourage undocumented Filipino youths to avail themselves of the benefits offered by the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“DACA is a temporary administrative relief from deportation that also allows its recipients such benefits as educational opportunities, financial independence and greater mobility, all without having to worry about deportation, albeit for a temporary period,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said.

Ambassador Cuisia said the Embassy decided to get involved after noting that Filipinos have not actively embraced the immigration breaks offered by DACA more than a year after it was implemented.

The Ambassador cited the results of studies conducted by several research and policy centers that revealed that despite the fact that Filipinos have a higher than average approval rate, only 16 percent of the estimated 20,000 Filipino youth who are DACA-eligible have applied so far.

“We believe that raising awareness can allay the fears of potential applicants so that, hopefully, more youth may deem it best to avail themselves of this immigration relief by the end of its second year of implementation,” he said as he expressed hope that the campaign would be able to present eligible Filipinos with an option that is workable and useful.

“The DACA program presents one such invaluable and historic opportunity by the Obama Administration to allow the Filipino youth to be more engaged and able to maximize their potentials, unencumbered by concerns about their immigration status,” he said.

APALA Executive Director Gregory Cendaña urged Filipino teens and young adults who grew up in the United States to apply for DACA because it provides them the opportunity to obtain legal papers.

“For two years, they will be protected from deportation and be granted a valid social security number and a work permit. After two years it may be renewed,” said Cendaña, an inaugural participant of the Filipino American Young Leaders Program. He added that DACA is the biggest advance in immigrant rights that the US has seen in over 25 years.

Angelo Mathay, DACA Law Fellow at the National Immigration Law Center, said: “For tens of thousands of Filipino families, DACA can provide long desired peace of mind that their young people are safe and have a fair shot at the American dream with higher wages and protection from deportation.”

Mathay said many Filipinos do not know about this great opportunity.  “The Migration Policy Institute estimates that some 22,000 Filipinos are currently eligible for DACA yet only 4,000 have applied and more Filipino teens are becoming eligible every day,” he said.

Many Filipinos do not know about DACA because much of the publicity is directed towards the Latino community, observed Adam Luna, Director of Own The Dream,  a national campaign that help teens and young adults who came to the US as children to take advantage of the opportunity to apply for DACA and obtain work permits.

“There is a need for Filipino community leaders to help fill the information gap, clear up misinformation and bring the benefits of DACA to Filipino youths who grew up in the United States,” Luna said as he expressed confidence that Own The Dream’s partnership with the Philippine Embassy and APALA will convince many undocumented Filipinos to come out of the shadows and apply for DACA.

Luna said the partnership will not only provide education about the DACA but will also allow for many undocumented Filipinos to access the free and low-cost legal assistance. “The Embassy’s strong reputation and public commitment to the program and partnership with the only nationwide effort to implement the program will also allay any fears from a community which, by necessity, has lived in the shadows for far too long,” he said.###

3 December 2013

DACA FORUM. Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. addresses attendees of the Forum on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on 3 December 2013 at the Philippine Embassy. (Philippine Embassy Photo by Elmer Cato)

3 December 2013

DACA FORUM. Filipino-American Angelo Mathay, who immigrated to the Philippines when he was 6 years old, addresses attendees to the Forum on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on 3 December 2013 at the Philippine Embassy. (Philippine Embassy Photo by Elmer Cato)