WASHINGTON D.C. – Good news to Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the United States.
More Filipino Americans, including two more Filipina leaders, have been named to top government posts under the administration of United States President Joseph Biden.
This as the President revived hopes of Filipino immigrants when he restored measures allowing Filipinos and other ethnic groups to their paths for legal residency and citizenship as he signed four executive actions to advance racial equality.
Biden unveiled a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, including thousands of Filipinos currently protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Biden has proposed an eight year path to citizenship with immediate green cards for the Dreamers.
The President also issued a memorandum condemning racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
“President Biden’s strategy is centered on the basic premise that our country is safer, stronger, and more prosperous with a fair, safe and orderly immigration system that welcomes immigrants, keeps families together, and allows people—both newly arrived immigrants and people who have lived here for generations—to more fully contribute to our country,” according to the White House.
President Biden, believing that families belong together, created a task force to reunite families that remain separated. This task force will work across the U.S. government, with key stakeholders and representatives of impacted families, and with partners across the hemisphere to find parents and children separated by the Trump Administration. The task force will make recommendations to the President and federal agencies regarding steps that they can take to reunify families.
Meanwhile, at press time, Filipinos can now apply again for H-2B visas after the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added back the Philippines to the list of countries eligible to participate in the temporary non-immigrant working visa program.
“For 2021, the acting secretary of homeland security and secretary of state have agreed to… add the Philippines to the list of countries eligible to participate in the H-2B program,” according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in a statement.
The FilAm community immediately lauded President Biden for the appointment which they said is an affirmation of the government’s track towards diversity in America’s leadership and aired hopes more FilAm appointees will follow in the coming months.
Earlier, President Biden appointed Filipino American Gloria Steele, a career officer, as acting administrator of the United States Agency for Development (USAID), while a nominee for the post is not yet confirmed by the US Senate, and Jason Tengco, former executive director of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), as White House liaison of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Steele had served as USAID’s Mission Director for the Philippines, the Pacific Islands, and Mongolia, from 2010-2015, where she oversaw a program budget of over $500 million.
The newest appointees are Pangasinan native Camille Calimlim Touton, and Veronica Valdez as Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation in the Department of Interior and as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, respectively.
Also appointed was John Santos, the new special assistant in the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the country’s second-largest federal agency.
Santos previously served as Asian American and Pacific Islander outreach director at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) where he led the DNC’s efforts to mobilize AAPI voters through a close partnership with the Biden-Harris campaign and community leaders across the country.
In addition to his organizing work, Santos has extensive experience in public affairs and communications having served as Western Region press secretary at the DNC.
Previously, he served in the U.S. Army as the Deputy Press Secretary for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve during a year-long deployment in Kuwait and Iraq. Additionally, he previously served as the health policy assistant director for the American Legion and chair for communications at KAYA: Filipino Americans for Progress.
President Biden has also appointed Fil-Am Angela de la Cruz Perez, a fresh graduate of Georgetown University, to the White House Communications and Press Staff to serve as a press assistant.
Perez served as a press assistant on the transition, and was a communications assistant on the Biden-Harris campaign.
Dagupan City native Camille Calimlim-Touton, the new Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, is the first Filipino-American to serve in the important agency leadership role, it was reported.
Touton returns to the Interior Department after serving as Professional Staff for the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. She was the staff lead on the resiliency provisions enacted as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2020.
U.S. Representative Grace F. Napolitano of California announced the appointment of the long-time water policy advisor, Camille Calimlim Touton, as Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation:
“Ms. Touton is a master of the complicated issues of Western water policy, who fully understands the grave threats posed by climate change and unpredictable drought cycles. She is well respected by the wide spectrum of water leaders, including Democrats and Republicans, federal, state, and local water officials, and non-governmental groups,” Napolitano said.
Camille Calimlim Touton holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from George Mason University, Virginia.
The Bureau of Reclamation is a water management agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees dams, canals, and hydroelectric plants across the Western United States. It is the nation’s largest wholesaler of water and the second-largest producer of hydroelectric power in the West.
Soon after the appointment, Rep. Christopher de Venecia of Pangasinan’s fourth district filed a resolution in the House of Representatives to congratulate Touton. “The appointment of Calimlim-Touton brings honor and pride not only to the people of Dagupan City but also to the entire Philippines,” De Venecia said.
Touton was born in Quezon City to Pangasinense parents. She and her family migrated to the US when she was in grade school.
Veronica Valdez, the new Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, is a former special assistant to both Navy and Air Force leadership and was the policy advisor to the Commission President at the Port of Seattle, a critical gateway to Asia. Goodnewspilipinas reported.
Veronica Valdez received a B.S. degree in International Business from The Ohio State University, a Master’s in International Affairs from the University of California, San Diego, and studied Mandarin at Peking University. Her awards include the Air Force Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Navy Superior Public Service Award, and Presidential recognition.
Valdez is a Truman National Security Project Fellow. She was born in Manila and grew up in Sydney, Australia.
Last year, Valdez was honored by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) who named her among its National Security and Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders awardees. (Claire Morales True/Jo Erlinda Yabut)