By Nimfa U. Rueda
LOS ANGELESâ€”Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin has cited the story of undocumented FilipinoÂ Jose â€œJBâ€ Librojo in the US Senate to compel his fellow senators to support an immigration reform bill that he has co-sponsored.
â€œBecause of our broken immigration laws, Jose has been placed in deportation proceedingsâ€ said Durbin, who held up a poster-size photo of Librojo while he spoke on the Senate floor on Dec. 12. â€œAll of these years, 16 years in Americaâ€¦a man who is currently working in the health field, in dentistry, whoâ€™s done such a good job that his employer wants to have him here permanently is now facing the prospect of being deported to a country he cannot even remember.â€
Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip and a close ally of Pres. Obama, has been pushing for the passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a bill that he co-sponsored to create a path to citizenship for undocumented people in the United States.
The DREAM Act seeks to provide conditional permanent residency to undocumented immigrants of good moral character who arrived in America as minors, graduated from US high schools and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the billâ€™s enactment.
Librojo, whom Durbin considers as a DREAM Act-eligible candidate, received a deportation order from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) two months ago. Thousands of supporters, led by Librojoâ€™s friends and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (Nafcon) launched online petitions and an e-mail campaign to stop his deportation. Word about the case reached Durbin, who interceded for Librojo. ICE suspended Librojoâ€™s deportation for one year to give him a chance to legalize his stay.
Liborojoâ€™s supporters argued that the deportation order was not consistent with the new Obama administration policy to avoid deporting illegal immigrants who were not criminals.
In his speech, Durbin echoed this argument and defended the enforcement of the new Obama policy, which some lawmakers have criticized.
â€œI ask my colleagues who are critical of the administrationâ€™s deportation policy: Would America be better off if we deportedâ€¦Librojo of the Philippines?â€ Durbin said in his speech. â€œI donâ€™t think so.â€
The new policy, issued through a June 17 memorandum by ICE Director John Morton, would scale back deportations of undocumented residents who are young students, members of the military, the elderly or close family of U.S. citizens, among others, and focus on those with a criminal record.
Librojoâ€™s lawyer Arnedo Valera, who worked with Durbinâ€™s staff on the documentation of the case, described his 31-year-old client as a Dream Act-eligible candidate who came to the United States lawfully as a child and had lived in the country for 16 years.
Valera said his office, in partnership with the Washington DC-based Migrant Heritage Commission, will ask Durbin to sponsor a special legislation for a â€œpermanent deferment of (Librojoâ€™s) removal, with a provision for a general application of the law to cover others in a similar situation.â€ At the same time, they will continue to work on getting Librojo an employment-based immigrant visa, which will allow him to adjust his status and become a permanent resident or green card holder. Another route for Librojo is through his wife Anna de Gorostizaâ€™s H1B or working visa for professionals,
During his presentation, Durbin read a letter from Librojo: â€œI hope that someday the DREAM Act becomes a reality so I may continue making contributions to the country I call home.â€
Other DREAM Act-eligible Filipinos include Pulitzer winner Jose Antonio Vargas and Mark Farrales, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University, who was arrested by ICE last year but later released and given a one-year reprieve to legalize his status.
Several Fil Am groups, including Nafcon, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) and KAYA-Filipino Americans for Progress, are pushing for the passage of the DREAM Act, which has been mired in the national debate over how to deal with Americaâ€™s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrantsâ€”one million of whom are Filipinos.
According to NaFFAA , 40 to 44 percent of the undocumented student population in the Asian community are Filipino students.
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