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Immigrants are not scapegoats to nation’s problems: U.S. Filipino working families oppose the Sensenberner Bill (US HR 4437) that seeks to criminalize every immigrant community

SAN JOSE, CA–Filipino professional and low-wage workers express serious disagreement with the U.S. House Resolution 4437 Border Protection, Anti-Terror, and Illegal Immigration Bill (also known at the Sensenbrenner Bill).

The bill will criminalized caring individuals, churches, charities, community groups, and similar service organizations that give humanitarian assistance to families without legal residence status. The bill also will allow the government to seize the properties of these individuals and organizations because they did not thoroughly checked the legal resident and immigration status of people before providing assistance.

“If this dreadful, anti-immigrant bill becomes law, it will throw over 10,000 Filipino families in our county with legal immigration papers into the streets and California’s prisons. It will also destroy the supportive infrastructure of our families, neighborhoods, and cities like Milpitas, Santa Clara, San Jose, Mountain View and Sunnyvale,” says Dr. Rowena Tomaneng, a women’s studies professor at DeAnza College.

“Many religious, labor, and community groups will be close their doors. In the county, they provide the needed safety net to prevent civil rights abuses, enhance working lives, and improve community relations,” Tomaneng continues.

The bill is on the agenda of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee this February. The full senate will vote on it in March. It was introduced by Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on December 6, 2005. The U.S. House of Representative passed this house resolution with a 239 to 182 vote on Friday, December 16, 2005.

Immigrant rights supporters including many Filipinos will converge at St. Elizabeth’s Elementary School on 34th Street in the Fruitvale district of Oakland (near Fruitvale BART) for a noon time rally to oppose HR 4437. This rally will be held Saturday, February 25, 2006.

FOCUS urges everyone to spread the word about the bill through a petition campaign (see http://www.immigrationforum.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=580) and to contact their U.S. Senator to oppose the passage of the bill.

FOCUS seeks a more just, genuine, appropriate, and comprehensive immigration legislation that provides everyone human rights and economic security.

Since 2000, Filipino Community Support (FOCUS) is a Silicon Valley consortium that empowers Filipino communities in Santa Clara County through public information, community advocacy and grassroots organizing.

For reference:
Dr. Peter Chua
Director, Filipino Community Support
Phone: 408-297-1977
Email: focus@focusnow.org

Record-breaking Remittances from the US to Philippines in 2005 is Nothing to Be Proud Of: Arroyo’s Fiscal Crisis to Blame

Filipinos across the United States are expressing “record-breaking alarm rather than record-breaking pride” over Philippine Ambassador Albert Del Rosario’s recent congratulatory remarks for an over 33.2 percent increase in annual remittances from Filipinos in the United States over the past year alone. This totals to an unprecedented $5.3 billion in US remittances to the Philippines in 2005.

Del Rosario further gushed that “less than 30 percent of an estimated 8.1 million Filipinos overseas, or specifically the estimated 2.5 million Filipinos in the United States, have generated 60 percent of the total worldwide remittances.”

BAYAN USA Chair Kawal Ulanday stated “the high dependency over foreign remittances generated from working overseas Filipinos to stabilize the dilapidated economy Arroyo has created is nothing to be proud of. We are shouldering the burden of being the band-aid for a national economy pillaged by government corruption, foreign debt, and neo-liberal economic policies.”

BAYAN USA countered Del Rosario’s remarks that the appreciated peso has increased consumption, which is driving economic growth.

“That is a lie, a picture the Arroyo administration is painting to depict false economic progress to her corrupt administration’s credit,” asserted the alliance.

Genuine economic progress should actually entail a decrease in overseas remittance dependency.

“The peso appreciation is not to the credit of a stronger economy. It is the result of a surplus of dollars flowing in to the country against a 4.84% noticeable decrease in consumer demand. Plainly speaking, overseas Filipinos are hustling to send back the dollars because Filipinos are still not earning enough on their own and still can’t afford the basics to survive,” Ulanday explained.

The alliance also pointed out that over 90% of government revenues from 2005 went to foreign debt servicing rather than to social services their dependents could actually avail of.

Meanwhile, Arroyo is falsely touting her austerity measures and tax hikes on the poor such as the Value Added Tax (VAT) as the responsible components of her economic solution.

And what are the real consequences of the drive to send money home? “Filipinos in the US are pushing their physical limits– juggling multiple jobs, working extra-long hours, separating from their families back home or neglecting their families who are here, risking their health– just to make ends meet for their dependents and for themselves,” Ulanday continued.

Ulanday equivocated Del Rosario’s praise of overseas remittances to “a basic admission of the economy’s fundamental failure.”

“This is a driving reason why Arroyo is bad for the Filipino people, and must go,” Ulanday ended.

Maravillosa Was Not the First and Certainly Won’t Be the Last Fil-Am Youth to Suffer Untimely Death for the Sake of an Unjust War; Bring Troops Home Now

Saddened by the recent death of a Fil-Am soldier in Iraq, the national alliance of Filipino organizations in the US known as BAYAN USA said the best way to prevent the untimely deaths of more Fil-Am soldiers like that of US Army Sargent Myla Maravillosa, whose body was flown back to her hometown of Inabanga, Philippines last week for burial, was to withdraw the US troops in Iraq all together. The alliance continues to actively call for the withdrawal of US troops in Iraq and in the Philippines.

Maravillosa was supposedly only the second Fil-Am soldier to perish in Iraq.

BAYAN USA chair Kawal Ulanday, a Fil-Am himself who grew up in a military family, noted that mainstream media rarely exposes the true death rate of American soldiers in Iraq and other US wars of aggression. “Myla is certainly not the first and will not be the last to die for this false notion of anti-terrorism. She, like all the men and women of our US armed forces, are victims of a US-led imperialist agenda that oppresses within its borders just as it aggressively wages oppression through war abroad.

Ulanday criticized the US military machinery for “preying on the hopes and dreams of low-income, people of color, working communities in the US. They target military recruitment from the poorest sectors in our nation’s cities and suburbs. They lure in the desperate youth with promises of a steady paycheck and education. And because the economy is so elitist and worsening for the majority of Americans, our young Fil-Am men and women take in the bait.”

“We honor and respect the lives of our young fallen brothers and sisters who died with the genuine intention to fight for democracy and freedom. Had their lives not ended under the flag of an unjust war and the leadership of a profiteering US government, they could have continued with these intentions and made major contributions for the good of their communities. But now we will never know who they could have become,” Ulanday ended.

BAYAN USA and its youth organizations League of Filipinos Students and Anakbayan committed to an increase in counter-recruitment education amongst our youth communities across the nation.

They also condemned the “shameless, all-out puppetry of the Arroyo regime to the dictates of the so-called US war on terror”, which is scheduled to deploy 5,000 more US troops to the Philippines under the auspices of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by February.

Filipinos oppose passage of US HR 4437; Sensenbrenner Bill will spell disaster for immigrants in the US

New York/San Francisco–The national alliance of Filipino organizations in the US known as BAYAN USA is strongly urging Filipinos in the US to oppose the possible passage of US House Resolution 4437, otherwise known as the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (Sensenbrenner Bill), which is up for review by the Senate Judiciary Committee this February and hits the Senate floor for a vote this coming March 2006. Such a bill poses staunch anti-immigrant state action that will devastate the over 3 million Filipinos living in the United States today.

“The Sensenbrenner Bill is perhaps the most state-repressive bill to hit US immigrant communities in since 9/11. It will surely effect all Filipinos in the US, whether you are documented or not, in an oppressive way,” states BAYAN USA Chair Kawal Ulanday.

Amongst the most criticized points of the bill, which passed 239-182 in the US House of Representatives last December 16, 2005, are:

  • the “unlawful presence” of undocumented persons would now be considered as a crime and felony, with the perpetrators subject to jail time and barred from future legal status and from re-entry into the country
  • Immigrants, including asylum-seekers, victims of human trafficking, victims of domestic abuse, and children who are apprehended along an international border or at a port-of-entry would be detained until such time as they are removed from the nation or otherwise provided immigration relief.
  • Anyone or any organization who “assists” an individual without documentation “to reside in or remain” in the United States knowingly or with “reckless disregard” as to the individual’s legal status would be liable for criminal penalties and five years in prison.

“Let us not be fooled into thinking this will curb the undocumented phenomenon in this country, of which Filipinos number over 1 million, or defeat terrorism for that matter. This bill is an assault on all immigrants, their families, and friends in the US. It will enforce an unprecedented peak in state-imposed martial law against immigrants since the US Patriot Act was passed,” Ulanday stated.

BAYAN USA asserted that undocumented population in this country will not cease to grow under such oppressive laws. Filipinos and other low-income migrant populations are forced into a life of exploited undocumented status here in the US because of a fiscal crisis made possible under the design of unjust and elitist global economic policies– policies authored by the US corporate elite, enforced by the Bush administration and its US puppet regimes in developing nations. For Filipinos, this translates to the record-breaking fiscal crisis made possible by the US puppet Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that has made it impossible for Filipinos to survive in their own homeland.

“A just and lasting solution to the undocumented phenomenon must first and foremost address its global economic roots. It will never be solved by criminalizing migrants and making them suffer through the government’s opportunistic usage of the word ‘terrorist’ in order to justify sucking in billions of tax-dollars towards so-called defense spending to the deprivation of the American people in desperate need of genuine social services.” Ulanday continued. BAYAN USA cited the battle for comprehensive pro-people immigration reform that promotes civil rights, liberties, economic and social welfare for all peoples is a battle that belongs to all US taxpayers. “The US is a nation of immigrants and workers. The Bush administration and its cohorts in legislature are lobbying for this bill not in the interest of Americans, but to expand the climate of fear that has legitimized a profit-making and sensationalized ‘war on terror’ within our own borders, at the expense of our lives, the lives of our families, and our tax dollars.”

BAYAN USA and its allies called for critical community opposition to the bill. “Those who stand for civil rights and liberties, no matter who you are, must let their Senators know they do not support this bill.” Aside from massive letter-writing and petition-signing to senatorial reps, BAYAN USA vowed to increase national protest and community education on the bill throughout this year. “It will be up to the Filipino people to make their opposition felt not only in Senate, but more importantly on the streets,” Ulanday ended.

For more information on local Sensenbrenner Bill opposition actions in your area, contact BAYAN USA at info @ bayanusa.org.