Friday, March 9, 2007


I don't think there's anyone among us Pinoy immigrants here in the U.S. who doesn't know of an undocumented immigrant. Some of them could be our best friends, our co-workers, the nice lady who serves us at our favorite restaurant. Some of them are even our family.

And yet the support for their cause in our community has not been outstanding. The Latino community, in contrast, generally rises up as one when the deportation issue is brought up.

Even at the press conference for a Deportation and Detention Clinic specifically for Filipinos, only one other reporter showed up.

"It's a very divisive issue," said Annalisa Enrile, Gabriela Network -LA chairperson. "People are afraid to come out in the open out of fear that they will be targeted, too."

There are hundreds of thousands of them: Our kababayans who, because of ongoing immigration sweeps, live in fear that one day soon, they will be deported.

A lot of them have been here for many years, pay taxes through fake but still credited numbers, and their children haven't even been to the Philippines. Some suffer indignities, low pay and employer abuse without complaint because they feel they have no choice.

"Women stay in abusive relationships because they are so scared of being deported," said Enrile.

In order to educate them about their rights and to provide free legal advice, Gabriela joined a coalition headed by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center to offer a clinic for them. (Details about this seminar can be found if you scroll down; it was posted last week.)

"We've seen a dramatic increase in the number of deportations in Filipinos in the last few years," said APALC's Daniel Huang, co-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Fair Immigration Reform.

The statistics about this serious issue are staggering:

- Since 1996, more than 4,000 Filipinos have been deported.

- Since 9/11, Filipinos have experienced the greatest increase in deportations of any Asian American community. This increase is comparable only to the increase in deportation of immigrants from Middle Eastern nations.

- Because of immigration laws passed in 1996, a significant amount of green card holders (NOT just undocumenteds) have been deported. If a green card holder commits even a misdemeanor offense, he/she can be deported.

- Over 85,000 Filipinos are targeted for deportation, per Department of Homeland Security.

Aquilina Soriano, Executive Director of Pilipino Workers' Center, said that their office has seen an enormous increase of calls from Filipinos that have been detained by immigration officials in recent months.

She answers more questions about this issue:

How has the response been to the Deportation and Detention Clinic?
There are only a few appointments that have been scheduled for the Clinic, but we figured out that this is probably because the Asian Journal article did not mention that you need an appointment. So there could very well be a lot of people arriving tomorrow. From the workers that I talked to, they said that this is a really important workshop to have.

Why should they go to this event?
This will be a very educational event, especially for those who are not citizens, either legal permanent residents, temporary visa holders or undocumented or have family members or friends that are not citizens. All of these individuals are at risk of being detained and deported.

This clinic will help to educate them about their rights and about ways that they can protect their rights and prevent deportation. They will also receive individual assistance about their individual cases.

Overall, the Filipinocommunity should be educated about this issue because since September 11, 2001, Filipinos have had the highest increase in detentions and deportations of all Asian Americans. So it is important that we know what the issue is and how we can protect immigrants and keep families together.

Many Filipino U.S. citizens and legal residents seem so afraid to support the immigration reform campaign. Why?
Our experience is that there are a lot of Filipinos who support the immigration reform campaign but haven't been approached to know how to have their opinion counted.

For example, last year many different Filipino organizations got involved in supporting just immigration reform that had never been involved in issues. Even very mainstream organizations that are not normally involved in advocacy.

Here is another example: We made an announcement about the immigration campaign at an April Boy concert last year. We asked that the audience stop by our booth on the way out to sign a postcard in support of comprehensive immigration reform. There were about 300 in attendance and we collected about 250 postcards. There was an overwhelmingly positive response.

But there definitely are those who are afraid to openly support the campaign. Those who have immigration issues are often afraid that they might somehow jeopardize their chance of becoming a legal permanent resident or citizen. Some are afraid that it seems very anti-American.

In fact, to participate in the immigration reform campaign is very American and a part of the spirit of democracy. And another upsurge of immigrants taking action on this issue could very well push the Congress to pass reform that has paths to citizenships for all or most immigrants living here in theUnited States currently.


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