Sunday, May 03, 2009

Filipino-Americans in New York City March for Legalization on May Day

For Immediate Release
May 3, 2009

Reference: Christina Hilo, Bayan NE Coordinator,

Filipino-Americans in New York City March for Legalization on May Day

NEW YORK-- Despite heavy thunderstorms, Filipino-Americans joined other immigrant communities at Union Square in New York to rally and march for immigrant rights in the United States this past Friday, May 1. The 50+ strong NYC May Day Filipino contingent, consisting of members from the Philippine Forum, Sandiwa, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), Anakbayan NY/NJ, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), and BAYAN USA, marched two miles together from Union Square to Foley Square in the pouring rain. The overall May Day march and rally at Union Square was organized by the NY May 1st Coalition, of which BAYAN USA and NAFCON founding members since 2006, when nearly 1 million New Yorkers were mobilized against the Sensenbrenner Bill (HR 4437), which called for the criminalization of undocumented immigrants, in the largest outdoor demonstration in New York City history.

Noting that 100 days have already passed in President Obama's administration, and with Obama promising to discuss US immigration policy this month, community efforts on the demand for genuine comprehensive immigration reform, including legalization of the undocumented, are intensifying. Filipino contingents in New York City and across the US, under the banners of BAYAN USA and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), took to the streets on May Day to urge President Obama to consider immigrant workers in these next 100 days, highlighting the importance of their work that keep the US alive and running.

With mock prison cells behind a "LEGALIZATION 4 ALL" banner, the Filipino Americans in Manhattan's Union Square brought awareness to the current situation of raids, detentions, and deportations of "illegal" immigrants. "With almost 1 million TNT (tago ng tago literally translated in Tagalog, meaning "hide and hide" in English, a phrase to describe "undocumented" immigrants) Filipinos in this country, many Filipinos are paralyzed by the fear of being deported and the possibility of people being separated from their families here in the US," stated Jonna Baldres, secretary general of Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, "Similarly, with the economic bloodlines of many families in the Philippines stemming from Pinoy immigrants working in the US, the worse fear is in abandoning transnational family responsibilities. As the Labor Export Policy of the Philippines continues to sell our people off, we march on May Day to make sure as Filipinos have served the US economy for decades, President Obama and his administration begin focusing on legalizing the undocumented."

Throughout the march the Filipino community chanted in English, Tagalog, and Spanish with their neighboring Latino community group, Jornaleros Unidos (United Day Laborers) from Woodside, Queens. In April, these two communities came together in another action in Queens to demand basic respect and human dignity from the New York Police Department and ICE who violently disrupt the lives of Mexican day laborers along with Filipino undocumented workers with harassment and abuse. The unity between the Mexican and Filipino communities who share the neighborhood gave new meaning to the chants they shouted, "We are people! We are not Illegal!" and "El Pueblo, Unido, Jamas Sera Vencido!" (The People, United, Will Never Be Defeated!, literally translated in Spanish). This great stride to connect communities of different ethnic backgrounds under the same call for immigrant and worker rights was a reality in the Woodside, Queens contingent.

Instead of focusing on the swine flu pandemic, marchers work masks that donned the phrase, "No to NAFTA flu!" This slogan point to the contradiction in the US' principal role in free trade agreements and their adverse reaction to immigrants that are driven to move across borders because of such policy.

May Day has been reclaimed by immigrant, workers and immigrant workers alike. The city-wide action drew hundreds of participants in the downpour and the long march because of the ever-important issues that immigrants in the US face. "Immigrant workers and their families never forget that we are in the midst of a crisis. We feel it in our bones, from the longer hours we must work everyday, from the lack of job security that keeps our anxiety high. We have come together to show this city that we cannot be forgotten and we will not be quiet until all undocumented immigrants are legalized!" said Anne Beryl Corotan from National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.

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