Category: J4I

ICE raids, amnesty scams, target Filipino family in Queens

Reference:
Henry Soliveres, Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition
email: justice4immigrants @ yahoo.com

NEW YORK CITY — Six Filipino immigrants were arrested by agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who raided the house in Elmhurst, New York, where they were staying on September 22.

ICE officials entered the house without a warrant and continued to search the premises for undocumented immigrants. Two of the raid victims are parents of a newborn baby boy. The father is currently being detained at a facility in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

The six believe their names were linked to an amnesty scam that tipped ICE officials of their whereabouts. Although the victims declined to reveal their real names, they are speaking out to warn other Filipinos of ICE raids and amnesty scams that are prevalent in the Filipino immigrant community.

Max [not his real name], who was one of those arrested, revealed that certain individuals have been going around the Filipino community claiming that those without legal status could apply through them in order to retroactively avail of a 1986 amnesty bill passed under the Reagan administration.

The going rate can go as high as $2,000 for an application. “He wanted a social security number, and there are many more Filipino TNTs [tago nang tago] that will pay that price out of economic hardship and the need to provide for their families. There are no jobs in the Philippines. Poverty is what pushes Filipinos to take these measures for our loved ones,” stated Robert Roy, Executive Director of the Philippine Forum.

Max said he believed that his application through the said individual was most likely the link that brought ICE officials to his home.

“We are speaking out as a warning to others in our community. We do not want others to fall into this trap,” Max continued.

Five of the victims and their family members took their story to the Philippine Forum, a not-for-profit, community service organization based in Queens.

“Amnesty scams abound, such as those involving the CSS / LULAC cases – a symptom of the ills of the immigration system,” said New York attorney Cristina Godinez, who is also the immigration policy analyst of the Philippine Forum.

“If the TNTs had a way to earn legalization, they would be less likely to fall prey to unscrupulous schemes and would not think twice about coming forward,” she added.

Godinez explained that the CSS / LULAC cases refer to two class action suits won against the then-INS for imposing illegal requirements on applicants unlawfully present in the US before January 1982, who were otherwise qualified for amnesty.

Under the settlement terms of the Catholic Social Services, Inc. (CSS) v. Ridge and Newman (LULAC) v. USCIS cases, amnesty applicants were allowed to reapply until December 31, 2005.

“Con artists have approached TNTs offering to fill out INS forms for temporary residence pursuant to CSS/ LULAC terms for a fee. The forms basically contain false statements and the TNTs actually sign them,” Godinez added.

In January 2006, the Philippine Forum and eight other Filipino organizations formed the Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition (J4I), a coalition dedicated to the protection of immigrant rights and building Filipino leadership in the broader immigrant rights struggle.

Since then, J4I has been conducting immigration townhall meetings in Queens and Jersey City in Tagalog. J4I has also mobilized sizeable Filipino contingents to participate in various immigrant rights rallies and demonstrations in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

J4I was one of the convening organizations for the historic May 1st , 2006 demonstration for immigrants rights that brought nearly 1 million protestors to Union Square in Manhattan. It has remained active in local, city-wide, and even nationwide organizing initiatives for immigrant rights.

Filipinos comprise the 3rd largest immigrant community in the entire US, with an undocumented population of approximately one million.

“Right now a new father is in detention. His wife’s future is also uncertain. Their newborn son may be separated from both his parents. What has happened to these Filipinos is a violation of basic human and civil rights. But what is just as sad is how common this condition is in our community and how more and more Filipinos are being forced to accept such a fate,” Roy ended.

J4I will conduct a series of community meetings to garner support for the “Elmhurst 6”. An organizing meeting is scheduled for this Thursday, October 12th, 3:30pm at the Philippine Forum office located at 54-05 Seabury Street in Elmhurst (V/G/R trains to Grand Avenue).

For more information, contact the Philippine Forum at 718-565-6682, or email justice4immigrants @ yahoo.com. For more information on J4I, visit www.migrante-ny.blogspot.com. ###

Filipinos Join Million-Strong May 1st March in New York City for Immigrant Rights, As Millions More Across the US Prove Economic Muscle Through Boycott

References:

Henry Soliveres, Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition, email: justice4immigrants @ yahoo.com
Robert Roy, Philippine Forum, email: philforum96 @ yahoo.com

New York– More than 200 Filipinos from the New York and New Jersey areas skipped work and school today, May 1st 2006, to join over 1 million more immigrants in a rally and march for immigrant rights in Manhattan’s historic Union Square. May 1st is traditionally celebrated around the world as International Workers Day, except in the US.

Launched as “A Day Without An Immigrant”, a national call for boycott of work, school, shopping, and selling rapidly spread across several US cities, including New York City, where blocks of businesses in all five boroughs shutdown in solidarity with the struggle of immigrant workers and families against the broken US immigration system. Students all over the city also participated in massive walk-outs from classrooms to join immigrant workers and their families in a massive march from Union Square to Foley Square.

The boycott call gathered support as a national tactic of exercising economic muscle to expose the economic value and contribution of immigrants in the US, while legislators in Washington DC continue the heated debate over immigration law.

The Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition (J4I), a broad formation of Filipino organizations and individuals addressing US immigration policy flaws and demanding for more pro-migrant reforms, marched side-by-side with another national Filipino alliance, Bayan USA, in a significant show of Filipino community force and unity amongst the city’s multi-ethnic mosaic of a march.

Amongst the majority of Latin American marchers, J4I was easily identifiable with a large and tall Philippine flag, as well as two giant-sized puppets of Filipino workers reading “Yes to Legalization, No to Criminalization” and “Faster Visa Processing, More Family Visas Now”.

Filipino marchers mixed Spanish chants with Filipino chants, invigorating the agitated crowd, and offering them a taste of Filipino cultural pride. From the towering buildings of Manhattan, onlookers from above cheered the sea of marchers below on Broadway, making noise from their windows by banging pots and some even throwing confetti.

Among the convening concerns of the J4I member organizations was the swift passage of US House Resolution 4437 in the House of Representatives last December. The bill would stand to criminalize undocumented persons and their supporters. J4I has led several Filipino community actions in Queens calling for a scrapping of the bill, and other “copy-cat” bills in the US Senate.

“Today we are not only marching to fight for our basic human rights, we are marching as a community that is proud to be Filipino. We are proud because we can never forget who we are. That is why we cannot accept these immigration laws that disrespect us,” stated 14-year old Malaika Queano of Kinding Sindaw, a Filipino indigenous cultural organization that is also a member organization fo J4I. Like many other youth, Queano did not attend school to join the march and was accompanied by her parents and sister, all immigrants from the Philippines.

Queano also marched donning her mother’s nursing scrubs. “My mother is a hardworker and provider for us. This country should treat her with respect, not like a criminal, just because she is an immigrant.”

“We enjoin ourselves with our immigrant sisters and brothers to fight these racist and repressive immigration bills in Congress, but we must also unite as Filipinos to bring a collective voice to our particular immigrant experience in this country, even if we have to amplify it through boycott,” stated Robyn Rodriguez of J4I.

Robyn Rodriguez, a sociology professor from Rutgers University, who marched with her 8 year-old son Amado, stressed the coalition’s calls for full and unconditional legalization for all and swifter family reunification measures via more family visas and faster family visa processing.

Of the 4 million Filipinos in the US, approximately 1 million remain undocumented or TNT [tago-ng-tago]. Over 70% enter the US through family sponsorship. Yet because of the high-volume of family visa applicants from the Philippines, Filipinos are given one of the longest wait periods for family visa processing– up to 23 years.

Rachel Redondiez, secretary-general of Bayan USA, stated the struggle of Filipino immigrants in the US for just and humane immigration reforms is not separate from the broader Filipino people’s struggle for democratic reforms in the Philippines. “After all it is the dire economic conditions and political turmoil in the Philippines that drive our compatriots to leave out of basic survival, not by choice. Right now the Macapagal-Arroyo regime back home has proven its rotten character in worsening the nation’s chronic economic crisis with her adherence to the neo-liberal economic dictates of the US. She resolves the joblessness problem by sending us abroad to find work.”

Another Bayan USA representative, Berna Ellorin, served as co-chair for the main Union Square rally. In the opening portion, Ellorin diversified the mainly Spanish and English-language program with highlighting the immigration demands and contributions of the massive Filipino immigrant community in the US, the third largest in the country. Other speakers included Reverend Jesse Jackson, actress Susan Sarandon, and dozens of immigrant community representatives.

Bayan USA, a chapter of the nationwide alliance in the Philippines, played a convening role in the broad May 1 Coalition of over 100 immigrant community and progressive labor organizations responsible for adapting the national call for boycott and organizing the Union Square mobilization, one of the largest demonstration’s in New York City history. Both Bayan USA and J4I are active members of the May 1 Coalition’s Steering Committee.

Marching organizations and groups from the Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Contingent included Philippine Forum, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Migrante International, Movement for a Free Philippines, Filipino-American Human Services Inc. (FAHSI), Sandiwa National Filipino-American Youth, Critical Filipina/Filipino Studies Collective, Kinding Sindaw, Bayan USA and others.

Filipinos in New York and New Jersey join national day of protest for immigrant rights

New York– More than 100 Filipinos and immigrant allies joined at least 250,000 more in a New York City immigrant rights rally as part of the April 10th national day of action across several US cities, calling for comprehensive immigration reforms amidst the ongoing immigration debate in Capitol Hill. The Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition (J4I), a broad formation comprised of Filipino organizations and individuals from New York and New Jersey, raised their banners and flags high in a sea of multi-national representation in front of Manhattan’s City Hall. The Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition is an active member of the Steering Committee of the April 10 Coalition.

“We are the third largest immigrant group, and second largest Asian population in the US. Over 60,000 Filipinos migrate to the US every year. We migrate not because we have dreams or illusions of luxury. None of us choose to leave our loved ones behind and live a life substandard to the rights, freedoms, and opportunities afforded to citizens. Our migration is forced by an economic crisis rooted in and fueled by US foreign dictates that prevent the self-determination, economic development, and industrialization of our home country and others,” stated speaker Berna Ellorin of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, a member of the Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition, on the main stage. Berna Ellorin was the only Filipino speaker during the April 10 Rally for Immigrant Rights.

The vibrant and spirited Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition contingent convened and marched from Wall Street in downtown Manhattan and eventually joined the broader Queens-based Immigrant Communities in Action contingent that marched to the main rally site in front of the NY City Hall. A large Philippine flag marked the contingent alongside the flags of J4I member groups Anakbayan, Migrante International, Philippine Forum, and Bayan USA. Several Filipinos passing by and working in the Wall Street area noticed the Philippine flag flying high within the massive crowd and joined the J4I Contingent on site.

The Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition was formed in January 2006 and has been actively educating Filipinos in Queens and Jersey City on the current trends in US immigration legislation, including the heated Congressional debate that is sparking immigrant protests across the country. J4I recently led its fourth community forum in Jersey City last weekend at the law office of immigration attorney Ian Hinonangan after three forums in Queens and a Filipino community demonstration and march for just and humane immigration reforms along Roosevelt Avenue last April 2nd.

Among the coalitions concrete demands are legalization for undocumented persons, swift family reunification, no to the criminalization of immigrants and their supporters, and full worker protection and rights for immigrants. The coalition is also adamantly opposed to and denounces the passing of US House Resolution 4437 (HR 4437) last December.

“We Filipinos must assert our basic human right to live in dignity and with the opportunity for economic prosperity, and will tolerate no immigration system that sees us as subhuman and treats immigrants as modern-day slaves. Filipinos are joining this growing and unstoppable immigrant rights movement in the US, even as the Arroyo goverment back home is shamelessly bowing down to US dictates and not lifting a finger to protect us,” Ellorin continued.

Marchers in the broad Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Contingent on April 10th included members of Filipino American Human Services Inc (FAHSI), Sandiwa National Filipino-American Youth, Sumisibol, Anakbayan, Philippine Forum, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Migrante International, Bayan USA, Movement for a Free Philippines, Kinding Sindaw, and the Critical Filipino/Filipina Studies Collective.

J4I is actively calling on all Filipinos to participate in a Filipino community vigil for immigration reform on Sunday, April 23rd, 1:30-3:30pm in at the Philippine Forum Office, 54-05 Seabury Street in Elmhurst, Queens. The Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition is also organizing a Filipino contingent to join the next massive, nationally-coordinated immigrant rights rally on Monday, May 1st, 4pm in Manhattan’s Union Square. The Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition is a member of the Steering Committee of the May 1 Coalition.

“We must stay vigilant and moving during this Senate debate and especially after. No genuine and significant social change ever came about from a law that was passed, or from politicians who deliberate in Congress. Change has only come from the people. When people move, engage in diligent struggle, only then can our demands for immigration reforms be concretized,” Ellorin ended.

For more information, contact Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition at 718-565-8862, or by emailing justice4immigrants@yahoo.com.

To view and download pictures from the April 10th rally, visit www.migrante-ny.blogspot.com. ###

References:
Henry Soliveres, Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition, email: justice4immigrants @ yahoo.com
Robert Roy, Philippine Forum, email: philforum96 @ yahoo.com

Filipinos in New York take a stand for immigrant rights; call for Filipinos to march on national day of action on April 10th

Reference: Henry Soliveres, Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition (J4I)
phone: 718-565-8862
email: justice4immigrants@yahoo.com

Queens, NY– The block-long Filipino commercial district of Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens was the site of over 150 loud and proud Filipino immigrants, allies, and others who participated in an outdoor demonstration and noise barrage for immigrant rights last Sunday, April 2nd.

“We Filipinos who are forced to migrate abroad to provide for our families back home, whose contributions are invaluable to the US economy and the American people, are standing with the millions of immigrants in the US who are coming out of the shadows to fight for our basic human and civil rights. We will not be cowed into further marginalization and sit quiet as legislative bills in the Senate spell-out various degrees of immigrant repression. We are mobilizing and asserting our rights even as the Arroyo government back home has openly announced it will do nothing to issue protection for us,” stated Henry Soliveres of the Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition.

The Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition (J4I) is comprised of concerned Filipino organizations and individuals in the New York and New Jersey areas who united as early as late December, when the controversial Sensenbrenner Bill (HR 4437) passed in the House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin, alarming many immigrant communities of a heightening anti-immigrant climate within US legislative circles.

Last Sunday’s rally, organized by J4I, was the largest New York gathering of Filipinos to denounce the passing of HR 4437 and to call for just and humane immigration reforms such as a path to legalization and an overhaul of the tedious visa backlog system that has kept so many immigrant families painfully apart. The US Senate portion of the immigration debate is currently happening in Washington DC, while immigrant-led protest actions are continuing to take place nationwide.

It is also part of the buildup for an even bigger national demonstration for immigrant rights scheduled for Monday, April 10, 3-7pm with a massive convergence in front of New York City Hall. J4I is actively calling on Filipinos to participate and organizing a Filipino contingent.

Publicized as a Pagtitipon para sa Legalisasyon (community gathering for legalization) by the organizers, the event started off as early as 9:30am with an indoor forum on immigration legislation and a status report on the Senate deliberations at the Perlas Ng Silangan Restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue.

By 11am, the congregation moved outdoors and marched from 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, passing the number of Filipino restaurants and businesses lined along the street such as Sally’s, Renee’s Kitchenette, Johnny Air Cargo, Krystal’s, Barrio Fiesta and other immigrant-owned storefronts. Filipino and non-Filipino patrons and staffers cheered visibly with support for the marchers, some even walking out to join the march. Vehicles driving by honked their horns also in support.

Colorful banderitas reading “Yes to legalization, No to Deportation” were hung along the awnings of various Filipino-owned storefronts, creating an atmosphere that was not only militant, but celebratory of immigrant diversity.

“It is beautiful to see our Filipino community invigorated by our own collective strength. This is a long battle for us against the wave of repressive bills in the US Congress right now. But even the debate in Capitol Hill is no match for the united voices of immigrants out on the streets. It is even more important now for Filipinos to unite and keep the pressure on our senators and other politicians who cannot ignore our demands,” stated Steve Raga of the Sandiwa National Filipino-American Youth Organization.

There are over 4 million Filipinos in the US, the third largest immigrant community in the US, with one of the largest undocumented populations. An average of 60,000 Filipinos migrate to the US each year. In 2005, overseas remittances to the Philippines from Filipinos in the US totaled to approximately $6 billion, a key factor in keeping an otherwise dilapidated and ravaged Philippine economy afloat.

Rallyists were also keen on focusing on the criminal negligence of the Arroyo administration back in the Philippines, whose aggressive labor export policy pushes an average of 3000 Filipinos abroad daily to find work, yet has no sufficient program of protection for its overseas nationals when hit hard by racist and repressive laws abroad.

In a recent statement, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Gilberto Asuque mentioned “the best we can do is monitor developments in the US Senate…. Filipinos in the US who are in violation of US immigration laws should come home.”

“But what if these laws US legislators are issuing are blatantly anti-people and in violation of basic human rights, such as the US immigration system for the last few decades? It is shameful that the Arroyo administration, which cashes in immensely from the tens of billions of dollars in our remittances, will not stand up in defense for its own people abroad. There are at least eleven Latin American countries who sent foreign ministers to Washington DC to lobby for more just and humane immigration laws. It is wrong that the Philippines is not one of them,” stated Alan James Alda of the youth organization Anakbayan.

“That is the response of the Arroyo government, which is clearly not OUR government,” stated an unidentified Filipina domestic worker and rallyist in response to the DFA.

As members of the April 10th Network Steering Committee, the J4I Coalition and its member organization Philippine Forum are organizing a Filipino contigent that will meet at 1:30pm at the northeast corner of Broadway and Wall Street in Downtown Manhattan before joining the main rally. All are welcome to join.

Member organizations of J4I include Anakbayan, Critical Filipino/Filipina Studies Collective, Kinding Sindaw, Migrante International, Movement for a Free Philippines, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Philippine Forum, and Sandiwa National Fil-Am Youth. All Filipino organizations are welcome and encouraged to join. For more information, contact J4I care of Philippine Forum at 718-565-8862 or by emailing justice4immigrants@yahoo.com.

A picture gallery of the April 2nd NYC demonstration is available on www.migrante-ny.blogspot.com.