For the undocumented Fil-Am: Living in fear

Rene Pastor
For the undocumented Fil-Am: Living in fear
Trump's election has spawned a tsunami of fear among undocumented migrants in the US

NEW YORK – Jocelyn lives in the suburbs of Seattle where she has managed to carve out a life that she loves.

She has a small business, looks after a gaggle of nieces and nephews and gets to travel to places like the Grand Canyon or Las Vegas.

She goes to the gym twice a week and then swings by Starbucks for a treat of lemon cream pie.

Marilyn, on the other hand, lives in the shadow of the Disney resorts and parks just outside Orlando.

She works with her husband in a pet shop and they have an apartment full of bric-a-brac when I visited her last year. 

They drive down the Florida coast for vacations, taking the I-95 all the way down to Key West where she always swings by the former home of author Ernest Hemingway, whose writing she adores.

The couple hope to work for another five to 10 years and then possibly retire in the Bicol region near Legazpi. They have a house being constructed there, about 500 meters from the beach in front of the Pacific Ocean where the sunsets are often spectacular.

Jocelyn and Marilyn are undocumented migrants. Both arrived in the United States sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. 

Rappler reached out to both people after Trump and his anti-immigrant message won. Their names have been changed given the sensitivity of their status.

Fear in Trump’s America

Going by the US Census in 2010, there are 1.8 million Filpino-Americans in the United States.

Community activists believe the actual number of Filipinos hiding in the woodwork ranges from 1.8 to 2.0 million people, or a total of nearly 4.0 million people. 

President-elect Donald Trump has declared that immigration will be his top priority when he takes over on January 20, 2017.

His election has spawned a tsunami of fear among those who do not have their papers and believe they will be thrown out of the country in mass deportations.

“I really don’t know,” Jocelyn told Rappler when asked if she was ready for anything.

“As of now, I’m still shocked and sad. I never thought the election results would turn out the way it did,” she added.

Marilyn asked me about sanctuary cities which plan to defy the Trump administration and protect migrants from immigration roundups.

She has also started the surreptitious process of turning their assets into cash. In that way, they can transfer their funds electronically if they are caught and placed on a plane for the Philippines.

Marilyn thought for a long time on the phone before answering my question if she is ready for anything.

“In a way, yes,” she finally said. “I do not want to go but I have to consider the possibility that it may happen.”

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to deport millions of illegal migrants in the US.

Jocelyn feels a pervasive melancholy at the victory of Trump and what it means for the millions of migrants in the U.S.

“I feel a growing sense of uncertainty, not only for myself, but for others like me,” she said. “I really don’t know what to expect.” 

Both women are now gathering as much information as they can to give them clues on what can possibly happen next.

Marilyn has quietly contacted a handful of relatives in Manila so she can slowly transfer some of her belongings to the country.

“You do not want to think of the worst, but you have to prepare for it. I want to stay, but you have to recognize the fact that your time here may soon be up,” she explained.

Jocelyn wants to know if it is “really possible to deport 11 million” people.

“Are there laws or procedures that can protect us from deportation? What are our options? These are the things I am trying to explore. Maybe this is one of the many ways that will help us get ready should anything happen. I hope nothing happens though.”

Both love the United States passionately, just as much as the Trump die-hards who want all 11 million illegal immigrants deported from the country. 

“I don’t know if I am ready for it (deportation) , maybe not,” Jocelyn said, adding she left the Philippines decades ago. 

“I would have to start my life all over again. That would be difficult. I am not ready to give up my dreams of making a life here in the United States.” 

“I love this country.” – 


Rene Pastor is a journalist in the New York metropolitan area who writes about agriculture, politics and regional security. He was, for many years, a senior commodities journalist for Reuters. He is known for his extensive knowledge of international affairs, agriculture and the El Niño phenomenon where his views have been quoted in news reports.   

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