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Filipino immigrants and the US presidential elections

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Filed: K-1 Visa Country: Philippines

Filipino immigrants and the US presidential elections

By Lourdes Santos Tancinco

Philippine Daily Inquirer

First Posted 18:33:00 01/15/2008

VIDA BENAVIDES, a second generation Filipino immigrant and a political consultant in Washington DC, wants to see an organized Filipino community making a difference in US elections. At present, she is in Las Vegas, Nevada mobilizing growing Filipino population and the Asian Pacific Islander to participate in the caucus that will be held in a couple of weeks.

Engaging in politics

"It has been a challenging task on my part as a Filipino to engage my community, especially the new immigrants, to participate and vote in the political process," Benavides said during a meeting with Filipino American advocates for veterans equity. "Unless Filipinos can show that they have the power of the vote, it may always be difficult to advocate for a particular issue."

She said that one of the difficulties she witnessed is the campaign to pass the Filipino Veterans Equity bill in US Congress.

In the upcoming November 2008 presidential election, the candidates are wooing votes of immigrants. Even the Bush administration is aware that the Hispanic and other immigrant votes will make a difference in the election and that one of the central issues in influencing votes of the people is immigration.

There are several organizations that are engaged in educational workshops and conducting activities intended to register voters. One of these organizations is API Vote where Benavides is a member of the board. They have tried to reach out to US citizens to register and vote in the coming elections.

In conducting their educational "go out and vote" activities, one of the complaints that they hear is that most of the immigrants are still awaiting for their naturalization applications to be adjudicated. Unless these applications are adjudicated, these new immigrants may not be able to naturalize in time for the election.

Delay in naturalization

Last year, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decided to increase its filing fees. One of these is the application for naturalization to US citizenship. It was raised from $470 to $675.

As a result of the announcement of the increase in fees, there was a surge in the naturalization applications with the USCIS. It was reported that there are more than one million applications for naturalization that are pending right now. Normally, an application for naturalization takes only six to seven months before it is adjudicated.

Now, the USCIS announced that there will be 16 to 18 months of delay before all these applications, filed in June 2007 onwards, are finally adjudicated. This means that these one million applications will be naturalized after the November 2008 presidential election.

These one million applicants include a significant number of Filipino applicants who had filed their naturalization early to be able to vote during the elections in November. If they wait for 18 months, then the applicants are considered "disenfranchised" as they are prevented from voting as a result of the delay.

Sharon Rummery, a spokesperson for the Citizenship and Immigration Services, attributes the delay to lack of sufficient resources to handle the sudden increase in applications for naturalization. According to her, the USCIS is working "very hard to find creative ways to deal with this so it will (cushion) the impact." More staff is being recruited to handle the adjudication of the process but there is no guarantee that it will shorten the processing time.

More voters come election

Traditionally, there has always been an increase in the applications for naturalization before an election. In 1995, the INS (now USCIS) even led an effort to swear in more than one million citizens. It was then thought to be politically motivated and the Republicans accused the Clinton administration of creating a pool of potential Democratic voters in time for the 1996 election.

Now, the Democrats are accusing the Bush Administration of trying to delay the processing of the one million applicants for naturalization so that these new immigrants will be prevented from voting. This suspicion is not exactly baseless considering that the Republicans, in the last couple of years, have consistently rejected bills that are pro-immigrants. Hence, the potential new voters, who are new immigrants, are more sympathetic to immigration issue and will most likely vote for a candidate from the Democratic Party.

It is election year again, and for the eligible Filipino voters, the "immigration issue" among many other issues, remains a central factor in determining support for a candidate. And for Filipinos waiting to be naturalized, let us keep our hopes that USCIS be efficient and timely, lest there is indeed an intentional disenfranchisement of immigrant voters.

04/01/2007: Met online

08/24/2007: First trip to the Philippines. 09/11/2007: Left Philippines...sad day

09/13/2007: Gathering info for I-129F

09/22/2007: Mailed I-129F. 09/26/2007: Delivery confirmation of I-129F

09/27/2007: NOA1 Notice Date

10/01/2007: I-129F Check Cashed

10/02/2007: Touched

10/04/2007: NOA1 received in the mail

10/23/2007: Second visit to Philippines

01/11/2008: NOA2 Approved!

01/14/2008: Touched

01/15/2008: Petition arrived NVC. 01/17/2008: Petition left NVC

01/18/2008: Date on NVC letter

01/18/2008: NOA2 Received in Mail

01/22/2008: Petition arrived in Manila @ 10:53 a.m., Signed for by Grace

01/22/2008: NVC letter arrived in the mail

01/24/2008: Found medical and interview dates on embassy web site

02/04/2008: Packet 4 received

03/04/2008: Medical Exam @ 6:30 AM

03/08/2008: Third trip to Philippines

03/13/2008: Interview @ 6:30 AM...APPROVED!!!

03/13/2008: CFO Seminar in Manila

03/17/2008: Visa released to Delbros

03/18/2008: Visa delivered to our hotel in Manila by Delbros @ 8:30 AM

03/19/2008: We fly home! POE Guam

04/10/2008: Applied for Social Security card

04/14/2008: Applied for marriage license

04/15/2008: Received Marriage license

04/17/2008: Received Social Security card

04/21/2008: Married!

05/01/2008: Applied for name change on Social Security card

05/15/2008: Pregnant!

05/25/2008: Mailed AOS

01/08/2009: AOS Approved!

01/16/2009: Green card arrived

01/20/2009: Our baby is born!

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