Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Statement of BAYAN-USA on May Day 2009
The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN-USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino organizations across the United States, calls on all Filipino-Americans to commemorate May 1st, 2009 by joining the people’s continuing struggle for genuine immigration reform in the United States, and systemic change to the exploitative labor export structures in the Philippines.
On May 1st, 2006, Filipinos in the United States under the banner of BAYAN-USA were amongst the millions across the country who revived the militant spirit of May Day, an international workers holiday celebrated around the world but whose significance is suppressed and systemically erased by the US ruling elite and government. As exploitation and oppression against immigrants in the US grows worse– even in the age of the new Obama administration, which reaches its 100th day in office on May 1– it is paramount that Filipinos, coming from one of the world’s largest labor exporting countries and the poorest in Asia, express solidarity with all immigrant workers by fighting for dignity, justice, and human rights. This May 1st, BAYAN-USA remains at the forefront of the May Day rallies and street mobilizations in several US cities, and appeals to the broader Filipino-American community to join us in this righteous fight.
Forced by Poverty to Migrate, Living in the Shadows in the US
There are over 4 million Filipinos living in the United States, comprising the third largest immigrant population in the country. At least 60,000 Filipinos enter the US every year, mainly through family sponsorship. Of this, at least one million Filipinos in the US are undocumented, which translates to one million lives living in the shadows, in fear, and vulnerable to the gravest human rights violations perpetuated by the broken immigration system. These human rights violations include indentured servitude at the hands of greedy employers who prey on the fear of undocumented migrants, Gestapo-like raids by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), unlawful detentions without due process, and mass deportations.
For the majority of Filipinos who migrate via family sponsorship, the inefficient backlog system in the US has Filipinos waiting as long as 10-15 years for approval of their petitions. But the sad reality remains that most undocumented and exploited Filipino workers in the US would rather choose a life deemed worthless by the US government for a shot at greener pastures, than go home to the Philippines where they are guaranteed life of poverty and hopelessness. This predicament is universal to all who migrate to the US from countries forced into poverty by neoliberal globalization.
Exploited by Multi-National Corporations and Philippine Labor Export Program
The Philippine economy is kept afloat by the dollar remittances of overseas Filipino workers, which annually average up to $15-16 billion. More than half of the total amount remitted to the Philippines comes from Filipinos in the United States. Wide-scale poverty and deepening hunger force over 3000 Filipinos to leave their loved ones behind and migrate abroad daily. For the vast majority of the 10 million Filipinos living outside of the Philippines, migration was never a choice, but a means of survival for themselves and the families they left behind.
Landlessness for the majority of the Filipino population that live off the land and lack of national industries to provide Filipinos with decent jobs are at the root of this miserable reality. For over 60 years, the collaboration of global monopoly capitalism and the Philippine ruling elite has molded the Philippine economy to an export-oriented and import-dependent model. This means the vast natural resources of the country are bought cheap by multinational corporations and lack of processing industries leave Filipinos dependent on expensive imports from overseas for consumption. As systematized mainly through the global trading system known as neoliberal globalization, the Philippines remains a huge export processing zone for the first world countries of the world, leaving Filipinos literally as beggars on mountains of gold, and therefore seeking to migrate. The Philippine ruling elite, currently represented by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, profits from this misery by systematizing Filipino labor export in the Philippines through the country’s Labor Export Program (LEP), another oppressive system that literally pimps Filipino migrants abroad but refuses to protect them when they are abused and exploited, or worse, while overseas.
But the huge cracks and inherent flaws of the global system of monopoly capitalism are deepening and rearing for an inevitable downfall, as seen through the global economic crisis. The Arroyo administration maliciously boasts that the global economic crisis will not affect Filipinos or the Philippine economy. But these deceptive words are proven untrue every day as the demand for overseas Filipino workers decrease, causing the annual remittances to the Philippines from overseas Filipino workers to plummet downwards. The rapid isolation of the rotten Philippine ruling system provides excellent conditions for the majority of Filipinos to unite and strengthen the people’s movement for change in the country. The same can be said for the struggle for comprehensive immigration reform in the US.
Workers and Migrants Rise Up
As multinational corporations and big banks face the worst crisis in world history, caused by neoliberal globalization itself, the struggles of oppressed migrant workers around the world, including Filipinos, must intensify. It is under these circumstances that workers’ victories can be achieved as capitalists and their rotten system grow weaker by the day. It is also in this context that immigrant workers in the United States, amongst the most oppressed in the country, must raise the struggle from the streets for genuine immigration reform to a higher level and pressure the Obama administration to live up to its rhetoric of “change we can believe in.”
May 1, 2009 marks the 100th day of the Obama administration. With the official exit of George W. Bush, the Obama administration must be challenged by immigrants themselves to depart from the much-hated foreign and domestic policies of the Bush administration. Filipinos in the US must be part of issuing this challenge to the US government. With Washington already poised to put immigration on the table this May, and the two largest US labor federations uniting in the endorsement of comprehensive immigration reform, the political stage is opening its doors for advancements in the immigrant rights movement. We cannot afford to sit back and allow US lawmakers to decide on the fate of tens of millions of immigrant workers, including four million Filipinos, and their families abroad. The only path we should take is onwards with the struggle for a just and humane immigration system free of exploitation and repression.
LEGALIZATION FOR ALL UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS!
NO TO RAIDS, DETENTIONS, AND DEPORTATIONS!
SWIFT FAMILY RE-UNIFICATION NOW! SCRAP THE IMMIGRATION BACKLOG!
IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS!
BAIL-OUT THE WORKERS, NOT THE BANKS!
SCRAP THE PHILIPPINE LABOR EXPORT PROGRAM (LEP)!
NO TO NEOLIBERAL TRADE POLICIES!