“For Filipinos in the US right now, the struggle for immigrant rights is being waged against the proliferation of anti-immigrant legislature in US Congress in the form of repressive bills such as the Sensenbrenner Bill, and at the same time the culpability of the anti-migrant Arroyo administration that has done absolutely nothing to assert protection for Filipinos in the US if these bills become law,” stated Chito Quijano, labor union organizer and vice-chair of BAYAN USA, a! s he marched along with other Filipinos in the over one million-strong “Grand Marcha” in Los Angeles last Saturday for immigrant rights.
The recent Los Angeles demonstration, recorded as the largest in the history of California, was one of several continuing to spark rapidly across the US as various immigrant rights groups are taking urgent measures to mobilize in droves while the Senate debate over the controversial Sensenbrenner Bill and other proposed immigration bills peaks early April with a vote.
Filipinos in several cities, under BAYAN USA and allied organizations, took action as early as late December, when the Sensenbrenner bill passed in the House of Representatives. BAYAN USA member organizations from New York to San Francisco have been active in creating critical Filipino community opposition to the said bill and demanding more comprehensive immigration reforms absent from the majority of Congressional bills such as a concrete path to legalization, workers rights, and swift family re-unification for those painfully separated because of visa backlogs.
They also highlighted how Filipinos remain an open target for such blanket repression in host countries abroad because the Philippine government has no real program of protection for overseas Filipinos. In fact, as the debate in Washington DC ensues, at least 11 labor-sending countries in Latin America have already sent representatives to Washington to lobby for immigration reforms. To the misfortune of the 4 million Filipinos in the US, factoring the undocumented population, the Arroyo government has remained silent on the issue.
The Philippines is currently the third highest labor-sending country with the largest percentage of its nationals, over 10%, living abroad. This 10% generates the $10.7 billion in annual dollar remittances that sustain the Philippine economy that would otherwise crumble.
The largest popul! ation of overseas Filipinos can be found in the US, as an average of 60,000 migrate from the Philippines each year. Earlier in 2006, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution commemorating 100 years of sustained Filipino migration to the US.
“It’s sustained because the economic crisis in the Philippines remains unresolved,” stated BAYAN USA chair Kawal Ulanday, who participated in hunger strike called by the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition in protest to Sensenbrenner. Ulanday made no qualms about accounting the Arroyo factor into the plight of Filipinos in the US today.
“Just as the inutility of the Arroyo administration plays a key role in creating national conditions so economically and politically unlivable that 3000 Filipinos leave the Philippines as a means of basic economic survival, it is also the culprit as to why overseas Filipinos as partly so vulnerable to such grave human rights violations from repressive laws abroad– l! ack of initiative from the Philippine government to protect OFW’s,” Ulanday explained.
BAYAN USA vowed to nationally-coordinate Filipino opposition and action in the US as part of the broader struggle for immigration reform in the coming months. It also vowed to intensify its call for the “the US-subservient Arroyo regime” to step down.
A discussion guide on the Sensenbrenner Bill is available on www.bayanusa.org.
References: Kawal Ulanday, Chair, BAYAN USA, email: chair @ bayanusa.org;
Berna Ellorin, Media Officer, BAYAN USA, email: mc @ bayanusa.org