Reference: Robyn Rodriguez, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, email: nychrp@yahoo.com

New York– Filipinos joined other immigrant communities at the Ground Zero last Monday for a solemn wreath-bearing and candlelight ceremony commemorating all victims of the 9/11 bombing, but most especially “the forgotten victims.”

The event focused on the hundreds of undocumented immigrant workers who perished in the bombing and the hundreds more undocumented immigrant workers suffering from unsafe, unfair, and exploitative labor conditions cleaning up Ground Zero.

At a time when Congress’s deliberations on immigration legislation leans more towards enforcement-type policies, and intensified raids, detentions, and deportations are enveloping the country, immigrant rights advocates reiterated demands for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path towards legalization and full workers rights for all undocumented persons.

Berna Ellorin, a member of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines and the NY May 1st Coalition, spoke about post 9/11 victimization of the global Filipino community amidst a crowd of mourners.

“There were many Filipinos, both documented and undocumented, who died in the Twin Tower attacks on 9/11, but there are many more new victims created everyday from the Bush administration’s War on Terror that followed. Not only does our community share the pain of raids, detentions, and mass deportations within US borders, but thousands more Filipinos are suffering from the expansion of the War on Terror in the Philippines, the presence of US troops, US funding for death squads, and daily political killings of those fighting for genuine social change,” Ellorin stated in a short speech.

“One of the best ways to honor the lives that perished on 9/11 is to continue to demand the US government and its allies stop using this tragedy as an excuse for the death and suffering of millions more of the world’s citizens,” Ellorin continued.

She was joined by members of Anakbayan NY/NJ, Philippine Forum Community Action, and the Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition.

In closing, Ellorin recalled the words of Filipino migrant hero Carlos Bulosan and read excerpts from his novel America’s In the Heart.

“America is also the nameless foreigner, the homeless refugee, the hungry boy begging for a job and the black body dangling on a tree. America is the illiterate immigrant who is ashamed that the world of books and intellectual opportunities closed to him. We are all that nameless foreigner, that homeless refugee, that hungry boy, that illiterate immigrant and that lynched black body. All of us, from the first Adams to the last Filipino, native born or alien, educated or illiterate.”

This September 11, 2006 also marks the 50th death anniversary Bulosan, a migrant and labor rights activist, writer, and another historical victim of unjust US immigration legislation.

The memorial ceremony was convened by the NY May 1st Coalition, a city-wide formation of immigrant rights advocates and groups calling for immigration reforms that include the legalization for all undocumented persons, a moratorium on all raids and deportations, and no to the criminalization of immigrants.

They were joined by others in the immigrants’ rights, anti-war, and progressive labor communities.