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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, holding her umbrella, receives a bouquet of flowers upon her arrival in Manila on Nov. 15.  (AP photo/Pat Roque)

 

MANILA — Undocumented students who were brought to the United States as children should be given a chance to stay there, visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Manila Wednesday.

Responding to a question via Skype by Filipino Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, Clinton said it is “important” for undocumented immigrants to “be treated with a humane approach,” especially if they are young.

“If you were brought to the U.S. as a child, that’s not a decision you made,” she said.

“If you’re a student and you want to remain in the U.S., I believe you have to be given the opportunity to do so.”

Vargas — who confessed in a New York Times article last July that he was an undocumented immigrant — asked the U.S. Secretary of State:

“Given the important role that documented and undocumented Filipino immigrants play in society, how would you define American?”

Speaking before the audience of the forum “A Conversation in Manila” at the National Museum, Clinton also said she disagrees “with a lot of people in the other side of the spectrum,” referring to those who are pushing for the deportation of illegal immigrants, including students and young professionals.

Last year, the U.S. Senate thumbed down the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a 10-year-old piece of legislation that can secure citizenship for undocumented students brought to the U.S. as children.

Clinton admitted that the U.S. Government has “to make some changes” in the immigration system, which she said, echoing Vargas, is “badly broken.”

“That’s something that I have said and advocated for many years,” said Clinton, a former New York senator.

“I’m confident that we will eventually work it through.”

But the U.S. Secretary of State said there is a difference between documented and undocumented immigrants because the former went through the legal process, enabling them to “enjoy certain rights.”

She added that illegal immigration is “true in every country,” but many flock to the U.S., which she referred to as “a nation of immigrants.”

“I think of America as an idea as much as a place — a place of freedom [where people can] pursue their own God-given talents in a system that rewards hard work and effort,” she said.

‘Low-priority’

According to the U.S.-based National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), there are over one million undocumented Filipinos in the U.S.

The organization recently staged a series of activities to stop the deportation of dental assistant Jose Isabelo Librojo, who received a stay of his deportation when he was about to be sent back to the Philippines last Saturday.

A few days before Librojo received a deportation notice in June, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) head John Morton released a memorandum — dated June 17 — providing a set of guidelines on how to deal with what the Obama Administration called “low-priority deportations.”

The new policy “allows DHS to review deportations on a case-by-case basis,” giving leeway to young immigrants who do not have any criminal record and those that do not pose risk to national security.