Many Filipinos think working or migrating abroad will lead to a better life. Thus, many apply for jobs or try to immigrate to certain countries. They usually take the legal route and obtain the proper documentation. However, a Filipino also enters a country illegally or overstays a valid visa, hence called a TNT immigrant.
The term “TNT” is an acronym that stands for “Tago Ng Tago”, which is a Tagalog phrase that roughly translates to “constantly hiding.” In Filipino culture, “TNT” is commonly used to refer to undocumented Filipino immigrants living in another country and trying to avoid being caught by immigration authorities.
These individuals often live in hiding, work in low-paying jobs, and may face exploitation or abuse due to their vulnerable legal status. It’s important to note that living as a TNT is illegal and can result in deportation if caught.
In a 2021 paper released by Pew Research, the illegal immigrant population stabilized at 10.5 million in 2017 after steady growth between 1990 and 2007, peaking at 12.2 million and a sharp decline in the two years that followed.
Chasing one’s dreams is not at all a bad idea. However, it is important that when doing so, one follows a legal process when securing a job, visa, or any credential required in the host country. It is important to note that people realize that taking the risk and becoming a ‘TNT’ is never a good idea, as it leads to the following consequences:
Life of a TNT immigrant in the United States
A TNT immigrant’s life is often filled with obstacles and challenges. Because of political unrest, economic hardship, or other difficult circumstances, these people may face a range of difficulties when they try to establish themselves in a new country.
TNT immigrants may face logistical and practical challenges once they get to the US, like finding housing, finding work, and getting health care. They may also encounter language barriers and cultural differences that make it hard to adjust to their new environment and make friends.
They often show remarkable resourcefulness and resilience despite these challenges. Support networks in their own communities might be able to help them or organizations that work with immigrants might be able to help. It may take a while for them to settle in, build relationships, develop their careers, and contribute to their communities.
Even as they build new lives in the United States, TNT immigrants may face discrimination and prejudice based on their national origin, race, or other characteristics. It can be hard to feel fully integrated into their new communities and to access the opportunities and resources they need.
Even with these challenges, many TNT immigrants persevere, using their own strength and determination to build better lives for themselves and their families.
Main reasons for illegal immigration
Many Filipinos come to the USA for better job opportunities and higher wages to support their families back home. However, not all of them can secure legal employment or obtain the necessary work visas, which may make them undocumented.
Some Filipinos may come to the USA to reunite with their family members. However, obtaining a family-based visa can be lengthy and complicated, and some individuals may stay in the USA without proper documentation.
In some cases, Filipinos may leave their home country due to political instability or persecution. However, not all of them may qualify for refugee or asylum status, leaving them with limited options for legal immigration.
Unfortunately, some Filipinos may become victims of human trafficking, where they are promised legal immigration status in exchange for labor or other forms of exploitation. When these promises are not fulfilled, individuals may become trapped in illegal status.
Becoming a TNT is not desirable, as it exposes individuals to legal and social risks. Therefore, seeking legal advice and exploring all available options for obtaining legal status in the USA is important.
Impact of TNTs on American and Filipino economies
Undocumented Filipino immigrants in the USA may still send money back home to their families, which can help support the Philippine economy. However, the lack of legal status may make it difficult for them to access banking services or send money through formal channels, which can increase transaction costs and reduce the amount of money that reaches their families.
They can fill jobs in sectors like agriculture, hospitality, and healthcare where workers are scarce. But they may be vulnerable to exploitation, low wages, and poor working conditions because they don’t have legal status. Creating a competitive disadvantage for workers who are legally allowed to work in the USA can negatively impact the overall labor market.
Although TNTs pay some taxes, like sales and property taxes, they’re not eligible for most federal benefits. Therefore, they don’t contribute to social security, Medicare, or other programs that support the broader economy. Public services, such as emergency healthcare and education, can still burden local governments.
Some people may see TNTs as a threat to national security or as people taking away jobs from US citizens. Anti-immigrant sentiments and discriminatory policies can negatively impact social cohesion and the economy.
The negative impact of being a TNT immigrant
Loss of integrity
Becoming a TNT immigrant tarnishes one’s credibility, the image of his/her country as well as the image of his or her countrymen. Because of these actions, countries cautious of such practices can impose more strict regulations regarding releasing visas.
Applicants of student and tourist visas may find the requirements more stringent, and every need submitted undergoes closer scrutiny. Authorities can set very high standards that are difficult to comply with to deter fraudulent applications.
Thus, not only those TNT immigrants affected but the future generations as well. Gone were those days when a tourist visa merely required a passport and medical exams, especially in the United States. Nowadays, even the source of pocket money is being examined.
Risk of blacklisting
Many countries that are targets of TNT immigrants have become more efficient in detecting an overstaying migrants. In no time, these illegal immigrants will be caught unless an amnesty program enables them to gain legal residence status, or they get away with mere deportation without serving time. With good governance, low corruption rates, and advanced technology to identify offenders, it is more likely that these TNTs will be found or reported to the authorities sooner than later.
These illegal immigrants will end up in jail and, after which, will be deported back to their countries, blacklisted, and might never be allowed to return to the host country again. In addition to those, there is also a high possibility that caught TNTs will not be allowed to enter other countries because of their history of being blacklisted.
The constant fear of arrest and deportation
A TNT will always fear being caught and cannot move freely in the country where they are. TNTs will always worry about their current status. Limitations in activities, work, socialization, and others will always bind them.
Prone to abuse
These TNT immigrants are prone to abuse and being employed as workers paid below the minimum wage. They will have no choice because their illegal immigrant status does not grant them labor rights like ordinary citizens. Moreover, they are also the most common targets for blackmail and coercion by unscrupulous individuals or groups.
Miss out on the legal rights of legitimate migrants.
A TNT immigrant will never be entitled to any privilege. Living in another country other than the one a person is used to, is very difficult, especially in a first-world country that is highly commercialized. One cannot live without a cell phone, a vehicle, credit cards, etc. And these privileges are impossible for TNTs to avail of. Moreover, insurances and hospital privileges are very important areas well denied of TNTs.
Inability to seek justice
A TNT immigrant will find it hard to seek justice in cases of abuse or maltreatment. A TNT cannot seek the help of the authorities in case he or she gets harmed. Even in the cases of robbery, car accidents, and other crimes, a TNT will not have the opportunity to receive help from the police and other authorities.
While amnesty programs can help illegal immigrants escape the full wrath of the law, the disadvantages outweigh the benefits.
Challenges and risks TNT immigrants face
TNTs face various challenges and risks due to their lack of legal status.
Exploitation and abuse
TNTs may be vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by employers, landlords, and others who exploit their lack of legal protections. This can include long hours, low pay, and unsafe working conditions.
Limited access to healthcare
TNTs may have limited access to healthcare due to their lack of legal status and fear of deportation. This can lead to untreated illnesses and injuries, negatively impacting their overall health and well-being.
TNTs may be socially isolated due to their fear of being discovered by authorities. This can lead to a lack of social support and connections, exacerbating mental health issues and increasing the risk of depression and anxiety.
Fear of deportation
TNTs may constantly fear being discovered by immigration authorities and deported back to the Philippines. This can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety and a reluctance to seek help or access services.
Limited opportunities for advancement: TNTs may have limited opportunities for improvement in their jobs and careers due to their lack of legal status. This can lead to a cycle of poverty and limited social mobility, which can impact their economic well-being and quality of life long-term.
What protections can TNT immigrants receive from the government
TNT immigrants (undocumented immigrants) do not have legal status in the US and therefore are not eligible for many government protections and benefits. However, some limited protections may be available to illegal immigrants in certain circumstances:
- Protection against discrimination: Under US law, illegal immigrants are protected from discrimination based on their national origin, race, or other protected characteristics. There are protections against discrimination in the workplace, housing, and other things.
- Protection against trafficking: Immigrants trafficked into the US may qualify for certain protections. People who have been trafficked can get legal help, protection from deportation, and services to help them heal.
- Access to emergency healthcare: Regardless of immigration status, TNT immigrants may be eligible for emergency healthcare. Emergency room visits, hospital stays, and other emergency healthcare services can fall under this category.
- Protection under labor laws: No matter what their immigration status is, TNT immigrants are protected under US labor laws. Protections against wage theft, discrimination, and other forms of exploitation can be included.
Alternatives to illegal immigration for TNT immigrants from the Philippines
Getting to the bottom of illegal immigration is complex and multifaceted, and there are a lot of potential solutions and alternatives.
- Governments may consider comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the root causes of illegal immigration and gives undocumented immigrants a legal path. Immigrant workers can get legal protections by improving the immigration system, creating pathways to citizenship, and improving legal immigration.
- Governments can address economic disparities that drive people to migrate for better jobs. To do this, policies must promote job creation, increase access to education and training, and improve social safety nets.
- Governments may try to deal with political instability and conflict in source countries, which can lead to displacement and migration. It can involve diplomacy, development assistance, and peacebuilding.
- Governments can prioritize protecting human rights for everyone, regardless of immigration status. All workers should have access to healthcare and education, and due process should be guaranteed.
Through international cooperation and collaboration, governments can address the issue of illegal immigration. It can involve sharing best practices, developing joint enforcement initiatives, and addressing the root causes of migration.