Reference: Henry Soliveres, Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition (J4I)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
A picture gallery of the April 2nd NYC demonstration is available on www.migrante-ny.blogspot.com.