Working Filipinos in US face legal woes due to govt shutdown

By Raiza Javier

The US federal shutdown on Oct. 1-16 caused the government around 2.4 billion US dollars (107 billion pesos). Infographic by Raiza Javier.
The US federal shutdown on Oct. 1-16 cost that country’s government around 2.4 billion dollars (107 billion pesos). Infographic by Raiza Javier.

While the Philippine economy barely felt the effect of the  government shutdown of the United States, some Filipinos working in the US suffered from its impact.

One of them, a certain Joel Cruz (not his real name), said that his legal status was jeopardized by the temporary shutdown, in a report by ABS-CBN News.

Since the Department of Labor is among the agencies that were partially closed, Cruz’s Labor Condition Application (LCA) could not be processed. The LCA is a document that a prospective employer files when it seeks to employ non-immigrant workers for not more than three years.

Cruz, who hailed from La Union, was in the process of switching to a new employer after his previous contract expired on Sept. 30.

The LCA is needed for Cruz to file an H1B transfer petition. H1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa which allows US employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in highly specialized occupations.

In the same report, labor and immigration lawyer Felix Vinluan said that Cruz was only one of his clients who had problems due to the delays in immigration hearings caused by the shutdown.

According to the 2011 American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau, there are more than one million Filipino-born workers in the US.

The US went into a federal shutdown from Oct. 1 to 16 due to the lawmakers’ failure to pass the law appropriating funds for 2014. The shutdown stopped the operations of most government offices except those considered “essential,” including military and police.

Reenacted budget, not gov’t shutdown for PH

Unlike the US, the Philippine government does not shut down in the absence of a new budget for a fiscal year; instead, budget from the previous year is reenacted.

Article 6, Section 25 (7) of the 1987 Constitution provides a remedy in case the Congress failed to pass a budget legislation: “If, by the end of any fiscal year, the Congress shall have failed to pass the general appropriations bill for the ensuing fiscal year, the general appropriations law for the preceding fiscal year shall be deemed reenacted and shall remain in force and effect until the general appropriations bill is passed by the Congress.”

All the ten years under former President Gloria Arroyo’s administration worked under a reenacted budget. For seven years, the government operated on a reenacted budget for up to four months. In 2001, 2004 and 2006, the government used reenacted budget for the entire year.

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