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TNT Immigrants and the Undocumented Filipino Experience in the U.S.

-> This article about TNT immigrants is part of Documented’s Glossary. We want to make it easier to understand the U.S. immigration system. If you want to know more about different visa types and immigration terms, please check our updated library here.

-> To find useful information for immigrants, such as where to find free food or legal representation, check out our Master Resource Guide.

Filipinos have a term in Tagalog for Filipinos who are undocumented in the U.S. – tago ng tago, or “hiding and hiding.” Also known as TNT immigrants, this identity is given to Filipinos who live unauthorized in the U.S. and have to conceal their immigration status. 

There are an estimated 2 million Filipinos living in the U.S., according to 2018 figures, which makes the Phillipines the fourth-largest country of origin for U.S. immigrants after Mexico, India and China. 

There were approximately 313,000 undocumented Filipino immigrants in the U.S. between 2012 and 2016, according to the Migration Policy Institute. About 26,000 Filipino Americans were eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program when it was introduced in 2012, but there are only 3,270 Filipino DACA recipients as of March 2020.

DACA recipient Raymond Partolan explains in a column for Asian Journal, TNT immigrants, “means to live in the shadows of the United States — to evade all law enforcement authorities by any means so as not to risk being removed to the land far, far away that my family left over 26 years ago.”

Also Read: DACA Renewal Checklist

There are about 151,000 Filipinos living in the New York City area. They are the fourth most common Asian immigrant group after Chinese, Indian and Korean residents, according to the Asian American Federation. Most of the Filipino population lives in Queens.

Across all immigrant groups, Filipinos are more likely to be naturalized citizens. AAF found in 2015 that 62% of Filipino residents in NYC were naturalized citizens – compared to 53% of all foreign-born New Yorkers. Most Filipinos who get green cards do so through family-sponsored channels.

In 2019, Filipinos living abroad sent more than $35 billion in remittances to the Philliphines, according to World Bank estimates. These remittances accounted for 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019. 

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