Thursday, July 06, 2006

Filipino Leaders Map Immigrant Rights Strategy; Nat'l Conference to Take Critical Look at 100 Years of Filipino Migration

News Release
July 5, 2006

References:
Fr. Ben Alforque, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (Los Angeles), email: bealforque @ yahoo.com
Atty. Arnedo Valera, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (Washington DC), email: valeralaw @ aol.com

Filipino Leaders Map Immigrant Rights Strategy; Nat'l Conference to Take Critical Look at 100 Years of Filipino Migration

Arlington, VA-- Over 20 regional representatives from the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns [NAFCON] from over 20 cities in the United States came together for an emergency national consultation over the July 4th holiday in Arlington, Virginia to discuss a Filipino immigrant rights strategy addressing the Congressional deliberation over problematic immigration legislation in the US. The consultation was convened by NAFCON and the Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition [J4I] in New York. NAFCON also announced a national open conference on December 1-2, 2006 in New York City to critically address the centennial anniversary of Filipino migration to the US from a historical perspective of unequal relations between the US and Philippines. The invited speakers include migrant and anti-globalization advocates from the Philippines as well as community leaders in the United States.

In December 2005, the US House of Representatives passed House Concurrent Resolution 218, recognizing over 100 years of sustained Filipino migration.

"As Filipinos everywhere celebrate 100 years in the US, it is time we also nationally critique 100 years of the systemic injustice in the US immigration system and expose the global structures that promote the forced migration of Filipinos,” stated Father Ben Alforque of the US Filipino Catholic Ministries in San Bernardino, CA and a national spokesperson for NAFCON.

Alforque further discussed the need to link today's HR 4437 and SB 2611 bills as the modern modifications of earlier immigration bills in the 1900's that impacted the lives of struggling manongs [elders] who endured anti-immigrant bashing, forced impoverishment, and profiling as a result of the principles of racism and a “hierarchy of human beings” historically embedded in US immigration laws.

“Immigrants across the country, including NAFCON, continue to push for the full legalization of all undocumented persons because is still the only avenue for reform that fully recognizes and respects human dignity and family values,” Alforque added.

Yet the full legalization for all demand remains tainted by mainstream politicians and the media.

“Legislators are vilifying the term amnesty, when in fact this call is nothing new. They want us to forget that there were two amnesties granted under the term of President Ronald Reagan, a Republican administration! Unlike the myths painted by legislators and the media, amnesty is not tantamount to surrendering the sovereignty of the US. It is about promoting fairness, justice, and human rights,” Alforque continued.

According to DC-based immigration attorney Arnedo Valera of the Migrant Heritage Commission, more than 80% of Americans believe that the US immigration system is rotten and broken in nature.

“The call for comprehensive immigration reform is popular and justified. Let us not forget the undeniable success of the May 1st demonstrations for immigrant rights across the country, which saw some of the largest rallies in this nation’s history,” Valera continued.

Valera added that the overused rhetoric of national security and terrorism are scare tactics to discredit demands for comprehensive immigration reform, when it fact it is like comparing apples to oranges.

“National security vis-à-vis the legalization of undocumented persons are two completely different issues. Hence national security and comprehensive immigration reform can co-exist,” Valera stated.

Ivy Climacosa of the Filipino Community Center of San Francisco also urged the need to link the struggle for immigrant rights in the US to the more global structures of neoliberalism, globalization and the Philippines as a "Second Front" to Bush's War on Terror. Under this light, HR 4437 and SB 2611 are very thin band-aids to the unresolved deeper problem of the massive outmigration of Third World Peoples.

"Globalization aggressively breeds a trail of massive and deep poverty all over the world. The economic dictates of US foreign policy on countries such as the Philippines are at the core of the forced migration and displacement of the world’s peoples,” Climacosa added.

The delegates also resolved to register concern and condemnation over the ongoing and rampant human rights violations and killings of advocates from peace, anti-war, anti-militarization, and anti-globalization circles based in the Philippines.

The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns is a multi-issue network of Filipino groups and individuals across the United States serving to protect and advance the rights and welfare of Filipinos by fighting for social, economic and racial equality. It was launched in San Jose, CA in 2003.

For more information on the NAFCON December conference in New York, email the Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition at justice4immigrants @ yahoo.com or call 718-565-8862. ###

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Despite Small Gains, Senate Bill Doesn't Measure Up

News Release
June 7, 2006

References:
Henry Soliveres, Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition, email: justice4immigrants @ yahoo.com

Robert Roy, Executive Director, Philippine Forum, email: philforum96 @ yahoo.com

Despite Small Gains, Senate Bill Doesn't Measure Up
Call for Legalization Still Alive at Philippine Indie Day Parade

New York-- The passage of Senate Bill (SB) 2611 did not stop Filipinos from voicing their disappointment and call for vigilance at last weekend's Philippine Independence Day Parade and Street Fair in New York City.

"While our community welcomes some individual provisions, as a whole SB 2611 will by far do more harm than good for us. It contains many of the dangerous provisions from HR 4437 that will devastate our community, " stated Henry Soliveres of the Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition (J4I).

Last Sunday, members of J4I and the Philippine Forum, an immigrant rights and welfare organization in Elmhurst, echoed their calls for full legalization and expressed disappointment over SB 2611 while participating in the annual parade with a display of giant, colorful puppets representing Filipino migration over the past 100 years.

"While we may have changed from Sakadas (farm workers) to health care professionals to caregivers over the past century, the basic reason we all leave, massive poverty, hasn't changed. Filipino continue to enter the US in search of better lives and chance to provide for their families back home.That is why most of SB 2611 is largely unacceptable if you consider our aggresive labor export program back home," Soliveres continued.

The better provisions of the bill include offering children of Filipino World War II Veterans, who fought side by side with American soldiers, a chance to apply for special immigrant status. Many children of the aging veterans, who are still in the middle of a decades-long campaign for full equity and pensions, still live in the Philippines and must go through the arduous process of family sponsorship to be reunited with their relatives in the US.

Others provisions Soliveres welcomed were the lifting of the limit on the number of work-visas for foreign nurses and the increase in the number family sponsorship visas a year. The Philippines is currently the largest exporter of healthcare professionals, mainly nurses, in the world. In addition, Filipinos are given the longest wait period-- up to 23 years-- for family visa processing because of the high volume of applicants from the country.

Yet despite these welcomed aspects of the bill, their effects pale in comparison to the grave social costs immigrants will suffer due to the majority of SB 2611's provisions, namely the 3-tiered approached for legalization, the guest worker program, expanded detention and deportation without due process, and the militarization and fencing of the border.

"You dehumanize immigrants by arbitrarily deciding who gets to stay and who doesn't, by classifying who deserves the freedom to live openly based on the length of time they can prove they've been here, versus the basic fact that we are all human beings with basic rights and freedoms. We all work hard. We all pay taxes," stated Robert Roy of the Philippine Forum.

According to Roy, the 3-tiered approach will only benefit a slight few, those who've been in the US more than 5 years, with a chance at legalization, IF they reach additional requirements that remain undefined. In contrast, those who have been in the US from 2-5 years will have to return to their home countries and re-enter through a US port-of-entry in order to be eligible for a path to legalization. Meanwhile, those who have been in the US for 2 years or less would have to return to their home countries and only from there apply for a temporary guest-worker visa.

"In other words, the majority of the 12 million undocumented persons in the US will continue to see no light at the end of their dark tunnel that has kept them as an underclass forced to live in the shadows. The only people who stand to gain from this are slave-driving employers and big business who will prey on their vulnerability and force immigrants into indentured servitude, " Roy ended.

The Justice 4 Immigrants Coalition, a national formation of Filipino organizations and individuals fighting for just and humane immigration reforms, was the first Filipino formation in New York to respond to Congress' immigation debate by denouncing both Congress bills and mobilizing on the streets for immigrant rights.

No stranger to controversy at the Philippine Independence Day parade, the Philippine Forum contingent was violently dispersed by police last year at the call of the Philippine Independence Day Committee for holding up placards condemning the the lavish-spending of overseas Filipino worker funds for a $10G per month condo for Consul General Cecilia Rebong at the Trump Tower.

Soliveres maintained Filipinos in the US must remain vigilant and join efforts to fight for better reforms.

"This won't end with the Senate vote. History has proven that power at the hands of the people forges real substantial social change," Soliveres ended.

A regional strategizing conference and fair for immigrant rights endorsed by J4I will be held on Saturday, June 17th, 10am-4pm at PS. 212, located on 34-25 82nd Street in Jackson Heights, Queens. Filipinos are encouraged to attend.


A J4I townhall meeting with legislation updates is scheduled the following Sunday, June 18th, 2pm at the Philippine Forum office at 54-05 Seabury Street. Trains are V/G/R to Grand Avenue. All are welcome to attend.

For more information on J4I, call 718-565-8862, or email justice4immigrants @ yahoo.com. J4I articles can be found at www.migrante-ny.blogspot.com. ###

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Immigrant Struggle Doesn’t End With Senate Vote; Filipinos Gear Up for July 10th Day of Action


Now that the Senate has passed an immigration bill, Filipinos in the US are not backing down on an intensified call for full rights and unconditional legalization for undocumented immigrants, more popularly known in the Filipino community as TNT’s.

The Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition (J4I), a local and national network of Filipino organizations and concerned individuals uniting towards genuinely pro-people, just and humane immigration reforms in the US are calling on all Filipinos to participate in another heightened national day of action on Saturday, July 8th, in cities across the US, including New York City.

“The struggle is clearly not over. Injustice still prevails in the presence of the passage of HR 4437 and now SB 2611. The people must continue to apply massive pressure on legislators,” states Henry Soliveres, spokesperson for J4I.

The first chapter of J4I was developed in Queens and Jersey City out of public denunciation of the now infamous House Resolution 4437, also known as the Sensenbrenner-King Bill. Among the basic calls of J4I are full and unconditional legalization for all, no to the criminalization of undocumented persons, and swifter family reunification measures, including faster family visa processing and more family visa made available for applicants from the Philippines.

The passage of both HR 4437 and SB2611, however, continue to strike alarm and, according to the coalition, stand to devastate the entire Filipino community in the US.

The newly-passed Senate bill proposes a 3-tiered categorization of undocumented persons based on length they prove they have been in the US. While a slight few may be granted legalization, the majority of the 12 million undocumented people in the US would still face deportation. This has many in the immigrant rights movement, including Filipinos, outraged and indignant.

“It is still an unjust bill that stands to violate basic civil liberties and rights of immigrants in the US. Placing arbitrary judgment on who deserves legalization and who doesn’t is akin to the racism African-Americans were battling during the Black Civil Rights Movement over 40 years ago. It is like deciding who amongst the millions of oppressed and exploited deserves freedom. As Filipinos—people of color, people forced to migrate primarily to escape massive poverty-- we cannot accept this,” Soliveres continued.


According to J4I, the Arroyo government boasted exporting a record 1 million more Filipino overseas in 2006. The United States is still amongst the most-landed destinations for overseas Filipinos, with more than 60,000 entering each year. Over 70% of Filipinos enter the US through the family sponsorship, yet the wait time for Filipinos given by immigration services is the longest—23 years—due to the high volume of applicants.

“It is a terrible reality that as 3000 Filipinos leave the Philippines each day, at least 3000 families are torn apart. The two bills introduced by both Congressional bodies stand to create more difficult lives for the minimum of 3.5 million Filipinos in the US and the 12 million they support back home. These bills will push us further into the shadows of marginalization, rather that improve our lives,” stated New York J4I organizer Farida Ali.

The reason being that as Filipino immigrants literally hang on the helm of any US immigration law introduced, so does the entire state of the Philippine economy, which would simply crumble into pieces without the intake of remittances from US Filipinos annually. A record high of $6 billion was remitted to the Philippines in 2005 from Filipinos in the US out of a total $11 billion in overall overseas remittances.

The creation of J4I, now a national network of Filipino groups with chapters in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, was founded under the framework of Filipinos already spearheading a legacy of social change in the United States.

It has since grown into one of the most visible and vocal national Filipino formations that has courageously asserted itself on behalf of the third largest immigrant group in the US, with one of the largest undocumented populations. J4I leadership in voicing out the struggles from one of the largest labor-sending countries in the world has also exposed the criminal negligence of the Philippine government in ensuring the welfare of its so-called “modern-day heroes” with the lack of protection programs for those suffering from inhumane immigration crackdown in countries abroad.

“The broken US immigration system was a challenge faced Carlos Bulosan, Philip Vera Cruz, Chris Mensalvas and all others in our migration history who struggled to advance the rights and welfare of Filipinos and all immigrants in the US. What we face now is the same beast in different forms. We must learn from our hard-won victories born out of peoples struggle in the past that genuine change is at the grasp of those who fight for it, and that must come from the common people on the streets, not those in Congress,” Ali added.

As a convener of the May 1 Coalition that drew in nearly one million on the streets of downtown Manhattan, the largest demonstration in New York City history, J4I has been a beacon in uplifting Filipino presence in the national immigration debate. With over 5 immigration townhall meetings between Queens and Jersey City, J4I was also the first to mobilize a march along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, an area known as perhaps the most diverse immigrant community in the world. Since then the coalition has also mobilized growing Filipino contingents on April 10th and May 1st.

Member organizations of J4I in NYC include Philippine Forum, Anakbayan, Movement for a Free Philippines, Critical Filipino/Filipina Studies Collective, Migrante International, Sandiwa National Fil-Am Youth, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, and Kinding Sindaw.

J4I is part of an organizing committee for a northeast region-wide conference for immigrant rights in New York City to be held on Saturday, June 17th.

Meanwhile, plans for the July 10th New York mobilization include a strong J4I Filipino contingent. All Filipinos are encouraged to join.

For more information on the J4I, call 718-565-8862, or email justice4immigrants@yahoo.com. For more articles on J4I, visit www.migrante-ny.blogspot.com. ###

News Release
June 4, 2006

References: Robert Roy, Philippine Forum, email: philforum96@yahoo.com
Robyn Rodriguez, Migrante Intl- New York, email: nychrp@yahoo.com

ConGen's Pricey Condo, at the Expense of Overseas Filipinos


New York—It’s been one year since the infamous police dispersal of peaceful Filipino parade marchers ordered by the Philippine Consulate along Madison Avenue during the last Philippine Independence Day Parade. Filipinos in New York have not eased up on their demand for a recall of Philippine Consul Cecilia Rebong for her lavish lifestyle-spending of federal Philippine funds that rightfully belong to overseas Filipinos.

Marchers from the Philippine Forum, a immigrant rights and community organization based in Elmhurst, Queens, were the unlikely targets of the NYPD when they held up placards reading “No To Lavish Spending” and “$10k=12 new homes” back in the summer of 2005.

Congen Rebong currently resides in three homes, one of which is a two-bedroom condominium apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower along First Avenue. Rent has been reported to total a minimum of $10k a month, a exorbitant fee that has more and more Filipinos fuming amidst the worsening fiscal crisis in the Philippines, where over 80% of all Filipinos live below the reported poverty-level.

“Since the dispersal of the Philippine Forum marchers, all of whom are hard-working Filipinos with families who came here under the common denominator of economic survival, Congen Rebong has lavishly spent at least $120,000 more on her rent alone. That is the equivalent to at least P6,480,000 from the budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), a government agency that supposedly exists to address the rights and welfare concerns of overseas Filipinos. This is basically the people’s money being wasted on shameful decadence,” stated Robert Roy, executive director of the Philippine Forum.

Roy asserted that the Philippine Forum marchers “harbor absolutely no regrets” with holding up placards expressing their disdain over outlandish personal expenditures of Philippine diplomats such as Rebong, and “would undoubtedly do it again in a heartbeat.”

In fact, what is even more shameful now is that this spending of resources continues while the crackdown on immigrants in the US is escalating to alarming heights, thanks to the US House of Representatives passage of HR 4437 and the US Senate’s passage of SB 2611, two bills that are leaving more and more Filipino immigrants with little room for dignity and basic human rights in the US.

In a recent Pulong Bayan at the Philippine Consulate, ConGen Rebong was reported to have defended the Malacang’s non-position on HR 4437 debate by stating, “Just as the US does not intervene in our Philippine government affairs, so must we not intervene with US legislation.”

“Rebong’s lavish spending coupled with government inaction amidst legislative injustice towards Filipino immigrants, documented or not, are part of the criminal negligence and culpability of the Arroyo regime towards the overall plight of our overseas compatriots,” Roy added.

The anti-lavish spending campaign was first initiated last year by Migrante International, the largest overseas alliance of Filipino organizations of which the Philippine Forum is a member.

“Filipinos in the US are not alone in their sentiments. This is an internationally-coordinated campaign because this is an international phenomenon with our consular officers,” stated Robyn Rodriguez of Migrante International in New York.

“It is especially up to Filipinos in the US to make their voices heard and express their intolerance for this type of treatment,” Rodriguez concluded.

For more information, contact Philippine Forum at philforum96@yahoo.com.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Filipinos Heighten Community Voice For Immigration Reform as Senate Rushes for an End to Debate

News Release
May 11, 2006

Reference: Henry Soliveres, Justice 4 Immigants Filipino Coaltion (J4I), email: justice4immigrants @ yahoo.com

Filipinos Heighten Community Voice for Immigration Reform as Senate Rushes for an End to Debate

New York-- As the heated Senate debate resumes this week, legislators are now pushing for "rush-rush" conclusion with an end-vote by Memorial Day. The position is striking concern among Filipinos and other immigrants struggling for more comprehensive immigration reforms, while remaining staunchly against "HR 4437-type" provisions still contained in a number of Senate bills.

The NY/NJ Chapter of the Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition (J4I) will hold an emergency infomation session and open house for all Filipinos on Friday, May 19, 6:30pm at 251 West 14th Street (between 7th and 8th Aves) in Manhattan. The purpose of the open house is to keep Filipinos fully-informed on the circulation of bills in Congress and how each provision will impact the Filipino community. The J4I Coalition also serves to bring Filipinos together in order to raise the visibility and voice of the Filipino immigrant community along the immigrant rights terrain through critical community mobilization.

"We are concerned that the push to end this debate abruptly by Senators by the end of May will ultimately conclude in the non-compliance with the demands of immigrants communities and the striking of a compromise deal wherein repressive measures contained in HR-4437 will continue to live under the disguise of a compromise Senate Bill under a new name. As Filipinos and as part of the larger immigrant population in the US, we will not allow ourselves to be duped into any form of compromise," stated J4I spokeperson Henry Soliveres of the Philippine Forum.

Soliveres was particularly critical of "HR-4437-type" provisions expressed earlier in the McCain-Kennedy and now Hagel-Martinez bill around a "legalization for some" rather than "legalization for all" platform.

"This attempt to sow divide within the ranks of the immigrant rights movement by arbitrarily decising who 'deserves' a chance at permanent residence, and splitting indocumented persons in categories is inhumane and unacceptable. It is as good as a cattle call. Every undocumented person has the right to a decent livelihood in this country. Every undocumented person as the right to live as a 'legal' human being," Soliveres continued.

Friday's open house will also discuss critical upcoming actions of the coalition and orient those interested in joining J4I.

J4I members in the New York and New Jersey areas include Philippine Forum, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Migrante International, Movement for a Free Philippines, Filipino-American Human Services Inc. (FAHSI), Sandiwa National Filipino-American Youth, Critical Filipina/Filipino Studies Collective, and Kinding Sindaw. There are also J4I chapters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

For more information, email justice4immigrants @ yahoo.com or call 718-565-8862. ###