The song of the TNTs

3

OFFICIAL and credible research organization reports put the number of illegal aliens in the US (TNT in Filipino lingo for “Tago ng Tago”) between 10 and 12 million. The Pew Research Organization narrows down the estimates to 11.2 million in 2012, which – according to the report – remained unchanged in 2009.

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Of this number the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported a steady increase of TNTs since 2000.

It may be nitpicking but if the Pew Research says the number of illegal aliens in the US remained unchanged since 2009, the DHS report shows a 10,000 addition to the number of TNTs.

In fact, the average increase of TNTs – based on DHS statistics – is 13,000 per year, the highest increase posted between the year 2005 (210,000) and 2006 (280,000).

Since then the official count of TNTs varied from 10,000 to 20,000 per year until 2010. Assuming a 13,000 per year increase’ a further 52,000 Filipinos with U.S. visas joined the ranks of the hidden population.

How do they survive?
Jose was issued a B-1/B-2 multiple entry visa in 2004. He was given six months to stay in the US by an officer at the port of entry (Bureau of Customs and Border Protection – BCBP or CBP).

While in California he learned that he could apply for a Social Security (SS) card and number and a driver’s license, both of which would increase his mobility. He applied for and was issued an SS card. Next, he applied for a driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

With the two cards, a number of friends and relatives told him, he might want to look for part-time jobs. California is home to almost half of the 4 million Filipinos in America. Consequently, there are a lot of small businesses that hire part-time workers.

In addition, walking a neighbor’s dog, or staying home with an elderly parent of Filipino-Americans who need someone to take care of their parent while being a home-sitter as well gave Jose $25 a day, free and clear of taxes. He was advised not to file tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as it might trigger a red flag with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiating a search and deport process.

With the SS card and drivers license, Jose’s courage and daring moved up a notch. He applied for a part-time job with a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. He filled up an application form and indicated his SS number, as well as his California drivers license number.

All this happened before his six-month authorized stay (also called “lawful presence”) expired.

Then Jose was faced with a decision: to request an extension of his authorized stay by submitting the Form I-539 Application to Extend Authorized Stay or Change Nonimmigrant Status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) – or go into legal limbo.

He opted for the latter. Jose joined the ranks of the 10,000 plus TNTs officially estimated to be in the US between the years 2004 and 2005.

Jose’s 10-year tourist visa remained valid until 2014. However, he would not like to risk using it to return to the Philippines to see his family. He could get stranded in the Philippines and join the ranks of the underpaid, unemployed, underemployed and mostly overqualified for the jobs they hold.

He was making money and increasing his savings since he was not paying rent: staying with a family who needed someone to do home maintenance, a skill which Jose gained back home as a multi-tasking worker in the Philippines.

Jose is married with two children, ages at 10 and 17. He had not seen them for years and every year during Christmas, he spends for overseas call using a prepaid card and later discovered Skype, Magic Jack and Viber. In fact, he even bought three iPads, two of them minis and sent back home through a friend (the much vaunted “padala” system) so that he could talk and see his wife and daughters on FaceTime.

The couple who owns the house he is staying in (and maintaining) told him that if he wants to legalize his stay and be able to get a better paying, regular job, he could explore the “marriage-to-a-US-citizen option.” Jose was doing a good job of maintaining the house, the repairs come few and far in between.

His friends said they could spread the word about the marriage option since there are quite a few a U.S. citizens who might be willing to “marry” him. The price was anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 and in some cases, if the living-together arrangement somehow develops into a relationship, then money is no longer the consideration.

However, he needs to terminate his marriage with his wife in the Philippines first, obtain a final divorce decree before he can get married, apply for permanent residency and subsequently get his green card.

What to do? First the unofficial song of TNTs in the US based on the Beatle’s song, “Little Help from my Friends.”

Kadarating lang sa United States, kailangan lakarin ang papeles
Kamag-anak at mga kaibigan, ang advice – unahin ko ang SS
Oh, I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.
Oh, I’m gonna try not to get caught by CIS
Oh, I’ll get by if I pass IRS.

Nakapag-waiter sa isang restaurant, nakabili ng second-hand na wheels
Awa ng Diyos, na-approve ang credit, may Visa, Mastercard at Express
Oh, I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.
Oh, I’m gonna try not to get caught by CIS
Oh, I’ll get by if I pass IRS.

Do I need anybody? I just need someone to wed?
Should it be anybody? Kailangan Citizen no less.

Now that I have my own little green card, I’m gonna help the NPAs in the States,
Dahil alam kong mahirap ang buhay, mga taong No Permanent Address
Oh, I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.
Oh, I’m gonna try not to get caught by CIS
Oh, I’ll get by if I pass IRS.

I’ll get by with a little help from my Friends.
A little help from my Friends…

* * *

Is getting married his only option?

These three letters – TNT – have a counterpart which I have called the “Triple AAA” options: Asylum, Amnesty, Asawa.

Since Jose had been in the US for more than a year without applying for the first “A” he could no longer apply for political asylum. Besides, asylum applications from the Philippines had not been decided favorably of late.

The political gridlock in the US – with Republicans eyeing to impeach President Obama and Obama using Executive Action to defer deportation of the undocumented – makes an amnesty law impossible.

The last “A”then becomes Jose’s only option.

Of course, he could remain a TNT until the national mood about undocumented aliens swings to the other side, usually when the economy gets going well, and more jobs could be spread around.

Until then, Jose could sing the TNT song and maybe come to a decision.

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3 Comments

  1. Profile of TNTs in the US from Department of Homeland Security Source

    http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ois_ill_pe_2012_2.pdf
    There are hundreds of thousands of Filipino TNTs. It should be mentioned that their numbers are among the lowest – according to the Department of Homeland Security website.

    Estimates by Region and Country of Birth

    An estimated 8.9 million (78 percent) of the total 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2012 were from North America, including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.

    The next leading regions of origin were Asia (1.3 million) and South America (0.7 million). Mexico continued to be the leading source country of unauthorized immigration to the United States.

    There were 6.7 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico in 2012, representing 59 percent of the unauthorized population. The next leading source countries were El Salvador (690,000), Guatemala (560,000), Honduras (360,000), and Philippines (310,000).

    The ten leading countries of origin represented 85 percent of the unauthorized immigrant population in 2012.

  2. he is an illegal alien in the usa & he should be kicked out of there. I know 100% how all filipinos hate the though of illegal aliens in the philippines, yet when a filipino does it in america you all think its so good. I bet not a single one of you condems him because he is trying to do good for his family, i say yes do good for your family but always be legal.
    Obama & democrats are useless. They are ruining the country, wait until the republicans get in power & start sorting the country out. They will allow foreigners into their country but only by the legal way. All illegals should be made to leave & re apply & if they get told no because of their wrong doings then they only have themselves to blame for doing illegal things in the first place. But i understand why they do it as they know lying & cheating in the philippines is normal, its how things work here so they think its ok in other countries. But it isnt.

  3. Gloria M. Kuizon on

    Sana ang idea ni Obama na bigyan ng amensty lahat ng overstaying immigrants ay mangyari sa Amerika.