NEW YORK—When nurse practitioner Cristina Pajara saw a post on an alleged travel ban to include the Philippines, she wasted no time in canceling her scheduled trip to the homeland next month.
“Nothing is certain under this new government, I don’t want to take my chances,” Pajara, a nurse practitioner based in Las Vegas told INQUIRER.net. She is among many Filipino Americans who are skeptical about traveling to the Philippines during these “uncertain times.”
On February 2, Ohio-based Hammond Law Group posted an immigration alert on its website, stating that the Southern Philippines might be added to the travel ban imposed by President Donald Trump’s January 25 executive order. Warning that a revised order could take effect within two weeks, it advised affected nationals to refrain from traveling until the potential risk to their re-entry to the United States is cleared.
Within the same day, however, the Hammond law firm reversed its initial post.
“Lots of updates recently, but, here is the latest announcement from AILA [American Immigration Lawyers Association] National on the expansion of additional countries to the list: ‘Contrary to rumors apparently circulating, AILA National has no confirmation of additional countries being added to the travel ban. The executive order anticipates that additional countries could be added. Clearly, it is impossible to guess where, when, or how the president will use this authority.’ We will continue to keep you updated as developments occur. AILA has created a public page to post breaking news on the travel ban,” the law firm said in its update.
State Dep’t clarification
On its own website, AILA said the State Department had asked the group to clarify the situation.
“In response to rumors of plans to expand the travel ban to other countries, DOS [Department of State] informed AILA that there is no addendum, annex, or amendment now being worked on to expand visa revocations or the travel ban to countries other than those currently implicated in the Executive Order entitled, ‘Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.’ This includes Colombia and Venezuela which have been widely rumored to be under consideration. DOS confirmed that there is no information that supports such a rumor and asked that AILA members help end the spread of this false information,” AILA said on February 2.
Philippine Consul General Tess Dizon de Vega told INQUIRER.net that while State Department spokesperson Mark Toner had announced in a press briefing that the Philippines was not a country of concern, all Philippine diplomatic posts were on high alert.
This was affirmed by the Philippine embassy in Washington, D.C. “The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. and all posts in the U.S. are closely monitoring developments relating to the issuance and implementation of the new immigration policy of the U.S. government. The embassy and all posts will continue to extend appropriate assistance to all its nationals pursuant to law,” the embassy said in a press statement.
In San Francisco, longtime immigration lawyer Rodel Rodis warned that tens of thousands of Filipinos, including World War II veterans, were at risk from imminent orders targeting immigrants requiring public assistance. He said his warning was based on drafts of two new executive orders that had been leaked.
“The proposed executive order is based on the ‘alternative fact’ that immigrant families are overrunning the nation, straining the social safety net to the breaking point, and sucking up more and more tax dollars from hard-working Americans. False. False False,” Rodis told INQUIRER.net.
On Facebook, Filipino netizens reacted differently to announcements on the potential travel ban. Some were grateful for the warning, while others complained it promoted fear among the Fil-Am community’s undocumented immigrants.
“There needs to be constant public discussion about this so people will understand better what it really means. True or not or in the works, it is okay to give people a heads up. Some friends we know are planning to go home this summer. There’s no refund for changing one’s mind. Hopefully there is if the reason is [a] travel ban,” said public school teacher Olive Abarquez.
Community publicist Lorna Dietz wondered about the potential damage to the Philippines if such a travel ban were to take effect. “Please find out what possible repercussions there are if there will be a travel ban for Southern Mindanao except the urban areas of Davao City. This is the time to correct any misperceptions that the U.S. Embassy in Manila has (or the State Department). There are so many beautiful and peaceful places in Southern Mindanao worthy of a visit or doing business with. I
recommend being pro-active on this one, whether it is going to happen or not. What will the effect be on the Philippines as the 2017 ASEAN Summit’s host? What will the effect be on economic development for Southern Mindanao if this rumor manifests into reality?” she said.
Meanwhile, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) has issued a statement of concern about Trump’s immigration-related executive orders.
“We are deeply troubled by President Trump’s recent executive orders, which have disrupted the lives of many refugees and immigrant families. The U.S. has always been a nation of immigrants, and a beacon of democracy. NaFFAA is committed to work with other Filipino American leaders and advocacy groups to uphold our country’s cherished values during these challenging times,” NaFFAA National Chairman Brendan Flores said in a statement.
NaFFAA Executive Director Jason Tengco also led a conference call Thursday with Fil-Am organizations and leaders to further coordinate actions. In a statement, Tengco said: “We cannot overlook the fact that during his campaign, then-candidate Trump suggested banning immigration from certain countries, including the Philippines. NaFFAA wants to serve as a forum for Filipino Americans to work together to ensure that community members are aware and engaged moving forward.”