CALIFORNIA, United States – Filipino Americans advocating for equality vowed to remain steadfast in their efforts to uphold the rights of the disenfranchised in this country.
Still reeling from the results of the last presidential elections, Filipino Advocates for Justice (FAJ) declared support for populations that they fear are in the next regime’s firing line.
“We come together to share our fears, support each other, reject the racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic politics we just witnessed on a national scale and to assess what the immediate and long-term impact will be on our community,” the 35-year old nonprofit agency declared on its website. It named “immigrants, Muslims, blacks, Latinos, native people, LGBTQ, women and disability communities” as the incoming administration’s targets.
FAJ, in its post-election statement of solidarity, recalled the anti-immigrant sentiments trumpeted during the campaign by president-elect Donald Trump.
At risk, they say, are policies such as the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Lawful Permanent Residents also called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, focus of 2014 executive orders by President Obama.
The first policy gives opportunity for naturalization to the undocumented brought into the country as minors, like Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. Vargas was an adolescent when he flew into the United States with an uncle from the Philippines. He was unaware that he was unauthorized to work until he applied for a driver’s license was told at the Department of Motor Vehicles that the document he had presented was counterfeit. (READ: ‘For the undocumented Fil-Am: Living in fear‘ )
Trump has blasted “sanctuary cities,” or those that prohibit law enforcement from inquiring about immigration status and turning in crime perpetrators to immigration authorities. Proponents say the sanctuary policy encourages community cooperation with police while opponents say it harbors criminals. Mayors of 18 cities including Filipino-concentrated San Francisco, San Jose, New York, and Chicago responded defiantly to Trump’s threat to block billions in federal funds from sanctuary cities, assuring residents of safe refuge.
Trump also promised to deport at least 2 million people he describes as “criminal illegal immigrants” and stop immigration from terrorist-exporting regions. He has cited the Philippines as among those countries.
First on Trump’s chopping block is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” but he has not proposed a plan to provide health insurance to the 20 million covered by the program.
Eliminating ACA would affect Filipino Americans and many recently-arrived or low-income families whose children 26 years and younger may be covered on their parents’ plan. The health care reform law established Covered California, a “marketplace” for private plans where qualified clients may get financial assistance to pay for those plans. To qualify, clients must meet set income limits.
FAJ is unfazed despite these looming challenges.
They mobilized in 1994 when voters approved California Proposition 187. Pushed by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, the ‘Save our State’ initiative required public institutions such as schools and hospitals to verify immigration status and report suspected undocumented immigrants to the Attorney General and immigration authorities. A federal judge blocked implementation of the statute, which drew sharp criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.
The controversial policy “built a movement that challenged all anti-immigrant policies and eventually booted some of the worst anti-immigrant legislators out of office,” according to FAJ.
“We will power back from this seeming brink of disaster,” FAJ said, pledging to organize, educate and coalesce with kindred groups.
“By resisting locally, we inspire resistance nationally,” said the team led by Lillian Galedo, who has been at the forefront of community organizing since the 1970s.
Meanwhile California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon – both Democrats – said the new administration will not alter Golden State values.
“California is – and must always be – a refuge of justice and opportunity for people of all walks, talks, ages and aspirations – regardless of how you look, where you live, what language you speak, or who you love,” the legislative leaders said in a joint statement. “California has long set an example for other states to follow. And California will defend its people and our progress.”
Trump may have won the electoral contest but Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular race, getting over 2 million votes more than the billionaire who has not held an elected seat.
Clinton’s platform included comprehensive immigration reform that would set “pathways to full and equal citizenship” by upholding Obama’s executive action on DACA and DAPA.
FAJ urged those despairing over the election outcome to express themselves constructively, effectively, and visibly: “Show up in the streets, in the offices of legislators, and the voting booth. Register and use your vote in every election.”
The team invoked the ancestral Philippine philosophy of “bayanihan” that upholds social justice and human rights for all.”
Silicon Valley-based Fil-Am organization LEAD Filipino said that “liberal, progressive, and inclusive California” was “somber” after Trump’s win.
Organization founder Angelica Cortez said that Trump’s victory has “really emboldened people to come out with their prejudice, bias and not be fearful of any kind of consequence.”
Founded in 2015, LEAD or Leadership, Education, Activism & Dialogue, promotes local engagement, social awareness, and public service among younger FilAms.
The group has scheduled a town hall meeting 6-9 pm on January 6, at the San Jose City Hall, to help build solidarity among FilAms and other minority groups to stand up against Trump and some of his supporters’ “hatred, bullying and xenophobic rhetoric.”
Regarding statistics showing Filipinos as the biggest Asian American group supporting Trump, Cortez said: “We have a high number of Filipinos who do identify as Republicans – and if you look at the core values of the GOP it’s about business, profits, less taxes. And for a lot of Filipinos who are conservative, who came here, who might have started their own businesses, who put in hard work and then went through the whole citizenship process and abided by that system – they feel strongly that there should be no exemption regardless of the traditions of your home country, or what you’re fleeing from, or if you’re seeking refuge, asylum.” – Rappler.com
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