overseas Filipinos

[OPINION] Pop psychology: Inside the minds of Filipino-American Trumpeters

Jath Shao

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[OPINION] Pop psychology: Inside the minds of Filipino-American Trumpeters
'For other Fil-Ams, especially older first-generation immigrants, voting Republican makes them feel like members of a higher socio-economic class'

They say you don’t really understand someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you’re a mile away – and you have their shoes. With just two months left before November 3, modern-day prophet Michael Moore recently posted about the possibility of 2020 becoming a surprise sequel to 2016.

“Are you ready for a Trump victory? Are you mentally prepared to be outsmarted by Trump again? Do you find comfort in your certainty that there is no way Trump can win? Are you content with the trust you’ve placed in the DNC [Democratic National Committee] to pull this off?”

One of the few pundits to correctly predict the last election, Moore identified a key factor that I have observed too. Red pill voters are enthusiastic about their beloved supreme leader, while many blue voices are not as enthused about Biden. They just really want to say “Bye, Don.”

Short history lesson

Filipinos have been in America since before the states united. We were the first Asians in North America, settling in the bayous of Louisiana before the Revolutionary War. One of 4 nations called out each month in the visa bulletin, we endure decades more of waiting for immigrant visas than the rest of the world. Fil-Ams represent 4% of the hyphenated-American population, which itself accounts for 20% of all immigrants in the world. Because each country can only get 7% of the green cards allotted every fiscal year, the Filipino “line” is like the traffic by a mall on a rainy payday Friday in a ‘ber month

Although almost all Asians were banned from immigrating to the US in 1924, the Philippines was a US colony at the time. Colonized in 1898, Filipinos were US nationals who could freely travel to the US until 1934. The Tydings-McDuffie Act that led to the formation of the Philippine government reclassified Filipinos as aliens, including Filipinos living in the US. In exchange for independence, Congress enacted immigration restrictions on Filipinos, establishing a quota of 50 Filipino immigrants per year. After the other Philippine Independence Day on July 4, 1946, that quota was increased to 100.

Until immigration reform in the 1960s, most Fil-Ams who came here were from the Navy. Since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (still governing law today), the majority of Fil-Am immigrants have been skilled professionals. Historically, Republicans have been more pro-immigration than Democrats. In the late 20th century, Democrats were worried that immigrants were taking American jobs, and Republicans were pro-cheap immigrant labor. In this century the parties’ immigration platforms have flipped.

Sinners and saints

The Philippines is officially a secular nation with the separation of church and state enshrined in our Constitution, but Christianity feels like the unofficial state religion. Stemming from the only Christian majority nation in Asia, Fil-Ams are proportionately more religious than other immigrants, and much more likely to follow a man who literally gave people free healthcare than the average American.

I wasn’t surprised to receive feedback from well-meaning people sharing Youtube videos featuring rightwing Fil-Am preachers preaching a message of doom and gloom in the end times. In their jeremiads, Trump is the only thing standing between America and socialism. Somehow someone who cannot name a favorite Bible verse and famously calls Paul’s second letter to the CorinthiansTwo Corinthians” is the anointed one who fights for them. They cheer when their guy urges them to defy science and reopen houses of worship in the midst of a pandemic.

They don’t know or care that the military forcibly removed the rector of the “Church of the Presidents” while teargassing peaceful protestors for the sake of a photo-op. When their hero brandished a Bible that his Jewish daughter pulled out of her designer purse, they called that a  “Jericho walk.” But if you know the story of Jericho, it isn’t about building a wall. In the battle of Jericho, the walls came tumbling down.

Your body, my choice

Reproductive rights are another hot-button topic where some of us lean Republican. The Philippines is the only nation in the world that prohibits divorce other than Vatican City, where marriage isn’t common. Abortion is illegal, although that doesn’t stop the rich from flying to Hong Kong or the middle class from taking a trip to Quiapo Church. We enjoy the work of LGBTQ Filipino artists or even speak Beckinese while hanging out with our friends and family, yet turn a blind eye when they experience discrimination. Personal stances on issues like these are important to some voters, and some might even feel society would be better if everyone must follow the tenets of their religion.

Ako na

For other Fil-Ams, especially older first-generation immigrants, voting Republican makes them feel like members of a higher socio-economic class. While pulling themselves up by their own Air Force 1 straps, some feel the need to step on others to climb the ladder of economic success. Titos that talk like action stars, only wear branded clothing, and are too tough to wear masks especially seem to enjoy feeling siga. Maybe they idolize and identify with a brasher masculinity and not-so-secretly enjoy its toxicity. Some feel safer with a leader who makes it okay to say what you really feel. Some of us root for Killmonger and not T’Çhalla, because we want to feel like a boss when we vote, in spite or because of our own situations.  

Why should we care?

In recent weeks, people have inquired about the status of immediate relative petitions for Filipino parents of US citizens, who historically have had no wait for a visa number, just the processing time. Interestingly, even after I explained to them that their relatives are blocked by executive order until at least 2021, people who initially expressed the most concern about their mothers- or sisters-in-law immediately turned around and bragged that they were still voting for Trump, even knowing they were voting to leave their relatives under the longest and strictest coronavirus lockdown in the world.

What’s the basis?

Maybe you’re a healthcare worker whose insurance is subsidized by your employer. Whether or not essential health benefits are accessible to people with pre-existing health conditions doesn’t change your life. Maybe you resent seeing others get assistance from social services agencies because you’ve never asked for any help. You achieved your education, career, and finances with no help, and think others should too. Maybe you feel “law and order” is better for business, whether or not the numbers actually reflect that. Maybe the 2017 tax cut actually lowered your taxes, even as most benefits flow to the top 1% of the top 1%. Maybe that red hat makes you feel the dragon energy.


In the age of faux news, life-changing decisions are still made by emotion, not reason. One thing about Fil-Ams – whether red or blue, we tend not to discuss our political leanings. Maybe we should. The battle is won in the middle, and this presidential race could still go either way.

If you want to see a blue wave this November, don’t be complacent. Register to vote if you’re eligible to and haven’t yet. Don’t wait until the last minute to vote. You can’t send someone else to vote for you like the president and first lady unless you are also registered in Florida, but you can register to vote by mail in most states. Wash your hands, wear a mask, and while you’re at it, answer the census too. Your vote matters, and so do you. – Rappler.com

Jath Shao is passionate about helping families and individuals achieve their American dreams, and provides legal counsel for various legal matters. For questions or consultations please contact jath@lawfirm4immigrants.com or call 1-800-808-4013.

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