Sunday, February 4, 2007

Filipino Immigrants Mobilize to Fight New Immigration Bill

NEW YORK CITY - In strong opposition to the unjust, anti-immigrant House Resolution 4437 Sensenbrenner-King bill, Filipino organizations in New York City took action this past week to educate the community, launch a letter-writing campaign urging Senator Charles Schumer to oppose the bill in the Senate, and to demand comprehensive immigration reform and legalization for all undocumented workers.

On Saturday, February 4, members of Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, and Network in Solidarity with the People of the Philippines (NISPOP) gathered to listen to Attorney Ruben Seguritan discuss HR 4437 in a community forum. Filipino youth and workers expressed concern and outrage at the bill, which, if passed into law, would criminalize almost 14 million undocumented immigrants and any individual or organization supporting them.

“This is the height of class oppression and racism in the US,” said Damayan member Linda Abad. “Undocumented immigrants are mostly low wage workers like us domestic workers. As a result of the US multinational corporations’ exploitation of the Philippines, 10 percent of Filipinos migrate to other countries like the US to work for very long hours and very little pay, without benefits and protection. Rather than addressing our exploitation, HR 4437 wants to arrest and deport us. The US economy thrives on immigrant labor. It is just and fair for hardworking immigrant workers like us to be allowed legalization, not criminalization.”

“HR 4437 would undoubtedly criminalize countless undocumented Filipino youth, break apart their families and deny them the right of equal access to education, employment and social services," said Ofelia Virtucio, a member of Ugnayan, a local Filipino youth organization.

Ugnayan member Corinne Manabat added, “This bill blatantly brings injustices more than freedoms to immigrant communities who fight everyday for acceptance.”

Damayan, Ugnayan and NISPOP joined Immigrant Communities in Action, a coalition of over 20 immigrant organizations to oppose HR 4437 and demand support from Schumer, who has yet to take a position on the bill. A week of campaigns, forums, letter-writing and outreach in the Filipino community culminated in the Immigrant Justice Fair this past Saturday, February 11, where Filipino, Korean, Latino, Caribbean and South Asian organizations gathered to send a strong, unified message to policymakers and to celebrate the strength of their resolve through song, dance and theater.

Multiple generations from children to grandchildren, newly-arrived immigrants to American-born, wrote letters on colored paper shaped as hearts, to be delivered on Valentine’s Day to signify New York City’s love for the immigrants who support the economy and would be directly affected by the law.

"Attending the Immigrant Justice Fair gave me a better sense of how different immigrant communities can unite, gain a stronger voice, and support each other in the fight against HR 4437,” said Manabat.

To learn more about the campaign, attend an informational forum Sunday, March 5, 4-6pm, Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, 95 Broadway, Jersey City, NJ. Get involved and contact DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association, 406 West 40th Street, 3rd Floor, New York City, NY 10018, 212-564-6057.

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