In Biden’s Lead: Filipino Immigrants and Overseas Workers in the Next Four Years

by Phylicia Abary

Image Source: The Atlantic

Relationship Status Updated: the Philippines and the United States of America

Throughout history, the Philippines has been interlaced with foreign influence and relations, but no other country’s impact has come close to the United States’ over the past few decades. Such an affiliation and partnership only becomes more apparent as time passes. Officially established in 1946, the two nations have observed diplomatic ties with one another, both partaking in a continuous cycle of give-and-take (U.S. Department of State). This connection to the United States has given the nation financial and military assistance on the occasions that require such, with the same boon being contributed to the United States. Many more assets are exchanged, such as bilateral economic relations and diplomacy among others. 

Over the last four years, this relationship has been given a glowing review by both the Duterte and Trump administrations. These claims have not been revoked despite the anti-immigration policies and statements that have been passed by the incumbent president of the United States, as well as how the matter is currently being handled by his appointees. By 2021, the number of legal immigrants will be lowered by half, and Filipinos will further struggle to look for opportunities in the country (Anderson, 2020). This is not only due to these policies but also the way the COVID-19 pandemic is being handled by both nations. 

With the transfer of power during the 20th of January next year, numerous changes will be made concerning the policies that govern the United States, according to the president-elect’s claims regarding immigration and foreign policy. While it is yet to be seen if they will be implemented during the incoming term, it can be said that such promises and proposals are in favor of those seeking a shot at a new beginning in the land of the free. 

Shooting Shots: Filipino Immigrants and the Global Superpower

4.5% of the total population of immigrants in the United States are Filipino, and the majority of them moved to unite with their families or pursue educational and job opportunities (Tancinco, 2015). 

Biden has proposed the reformation of immigration policies, one being family-based immigration. His proposal will ease the difficulty of families to unite themselves by assigning spouses and unmarried children as ‘immediate relatives’, exempting them from the strict number quotas placed on them by Trump’s family immigration policies(Shusterman, 2020).

In the case of Filipino students seeking educational opportunities in the United States, the leader of the Democratic Party has also included a provision that allows international students to apply for federal student aid. Amendments are also in the works to allow those eligible to apply for United States citizenship. 

67% of working class Filipinos were part of the United States workforce in 2016 (Batalova and Gallardo, 2018). Based on the upward trend of Filipinos migrating to the United States  to further their careers, it can be presumed that this number has increased since then. The leader of the incoming term plans to make their move to the country easier through the betterment of the process of their applications for United States visas, making it more efficient and streamlined than it was in the last four years. 

Overseas Filipino Workers: Powering the Country through Opportunity

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are arguably the most powerful forces supporting the Philippines’ economy. Last year, they brought home US$30 billion, a staggering amount that accounted for around 8% of the country’s GDP in 2019 (Robles, 2020). Similar to Filipino immigrants, the United States is one of the most favored countries where OFWslook for job opportunities. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 8% of 2.2 million OFWs were based in the United States for work in 2019. This is a significant number considering how the Trump administration banned Filipino working visas in the January of the same year, which lasted a year after the ban’s execution (Viray, 2019). 

Months after the ban had been lifted, the pandemic started to spread, and the Philippine government placed all of its citizens in lockdown. COVID-19 has caused 319,333 OFWs to lose their jobs and be sent back home. This setback in employment has caused OFW remittances to fall by 1.4% in the first 9 months of 2020 (Magsino, 2020). The Philippines’ economy has already plunged into a recession, with the country’s gross domestic product shrinking by 16.5% last August (Jiao and Yap, 2020). These numbers have not been seen ever since 1981. 

However, hope is apparent for OFWs looking for work in America in the next four years. The Biden administration’s reforms concerning employment-based immigration promises a steadier and more accepting process for those applying for work visas in the United States, given that applicants adhere to the rules and requirements set by the government. Along with the plans of a better and concrete coronavirus response from the president-elect, OFWs can look forward to better job and living conditions in the United States starting 2021. 

All this in the time of the Duterte Administration

The Duterte administration has previously stated that regardless of who wins the 2020 United States elections, the Philippines and the United States would remain in good terms (Rola, 2020). The proceedings of President Duterte on the Philippines’ COVID-19 response, most specifically regarding immigrants and OFWs, are a whole other discussion . Debates on his handling of the country during these times are turbulent to say the least, and Filipinos can only hope for him to take inspiration from his fellow leaders who are actively searching and executing working solutions for the problems plaguing the country and world at present. 

All of Biden’s proposals point toward a better future for Filipino immigrants and OFWs. It is yet to be seen whether or not president-elect Joe Biden will make good on his plans for the term ahead. However, it is safe to say that millions of people are depending on him and those under his command to do well on their promises. 

2020 is nearing its end, and all can only push forward in order to achieve what they so desperately wish to happen in the year ahead.

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