18K Undocumented Filipinos Flew Home in '09

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More than 18,000 undocumented Filipinos in the United States voluntarily went home last year, avoiding possible detention and deportation.

According to latest statistics from the Department Homeland Security (DHS), Filipinos ranked third among aliens who opted to return to their homelands in the face of a growing U.S. crackdown on illegal immigrants and the slow recovery of the American economy from its worst recession since the Great Depression.

Most of these undocumented Filipinos — also called TNTs (Tago ng Tago), loosely translated as “always hiding” — overstayed their visas after finding jobs to recoup their travel expenses or to earn much-needed incomes for the families they left behind.

As can be gleaned from the DHS “2009 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics,” a total of 580,107 foreign nationals were allowed to return home, bulk of them Mexicans who comprised 465,205, or more than 81 percent of the total. Canadians, who came in second as 25,376 staying in the United States illegally, returned home simply by crossing the border or taking a short flight back home from their next-door neighbor.

In third slot were Filipinos (18,820), who probably thought it was time to go home to roost.

Rounding off top five countries with their nationals leaving the U.S. of their own volition are: China with 15,149 returning nationals, and Ukraine with 4,657.