Many Filipino Americans eye posts in Biden administration

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 20) — "So many people want to serve this President."

These are the words of Filipino American Irene Bueno as she looked forward to the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden. Currently based in Washington, D.C., Bueno herself was Special Assistant to the President for Bill Clinton from 1999 to 2001.

She's now working on helping Asian Americans land jobs in the Biden administration.

"We've been working with the Asian Pacific Islander American community to really elevate the people that we think can serve in the high-level positions in the White House and in the administration," Bueno told CNN Philippines' Front and Center.

"There are thousands of positions to fill, so we're really in the early stages," she said. "I'm confident that we'll see more Asian Americans in those positions."

Bueno also served as senior adviser for the Filipino Americans for Biden-Harris, which campaigned for the Democrat and his running mate, now Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in 2020.

She believes Filipino Americans will have an amplified voice under Biden's leadership, a far cry from the anti-immigrant rhetoric of outgoing President Donald Trump.

"Not only will we see Filipino Americans serve in the Biden-Harris administration, but we will see them also reaching out to the community and making sure that our voices our heard when policy decisions are made," Bueno said.

Immigration reforms

Bueno is looking forward to reforms in the US immigration system – one of Biden's campaign promises. CNN reported that shortly after Biden takes oath as 46th President of the United States on Thursday, he will send Congress a comprehensive immigration plan that will provide millions of undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship.

According to a highly-placed source, the plan would allow certain immigrants to achieve citizenship within eight years.

READ: Biden administration braces for new wave of migrants as it rolls out new immigration plans

On the contrary, Trump has limited immigration up to his last days in office, extending restrictions on visas that allow immigrants to temporarily work in the US. He pledged to build a wall on the US-Mexico border to prevent undocumented immigrants from coming in. Sources said Biden will issue an executive order to stop the construction.

Rodel Rodis, one of the founders of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, believes Trump's loss in the 2020 presidential elections was "caused by his own racism."

"Trump was able to capitalize on white grievance, the feeling that any achievement by African Americans or minorities lessens the opportunities for whites," Rodis said.

The past four years has been a "very repressed situation" for immigrants and minorities, prompting them to vote in unprecedented numbers, resulting in a Biden win, Rodis added.

The United States, divided

Trump did not easily accept defeat. He baselessly claimed fraud in the elections. On January 6, hundreds of his supporters stormed the US Capitol in a bid to stop the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes that would confirm Biden’s victory. Four people were killed in the chaos.

"There are deep divisions within the US," said Nic Robertson, CNN International Diplomatic Editor. "More than 70 million people voted for President Trump and that sends the signal that the support base for his type of politics still exists."

Trump said he will not attend his successor's swearing-in ceremony, which is expected to be scaled-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Rodis, how the Biden administration handles the coronavirus crisis will be a game-changer. Trump has been criticized for his pandemic response, disregarding the use of face masks and social distancing to control the spread of COVID-19.

READ: US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19

"If Biden is able to deal effectively with the COVID-19 and he's able to vaccinate the American people, the support of the American people will be behind him and the rest of the world will be able to follow the US," Rodis said.

Filipino nurses and healthcare workers were among the over 400,000 people who died of COVID-19 in the US, he noted.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte anticipates "close and friendly" relations with the Biden administration, his spokesperson Harry Roque said.