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. ###