Driving on the Long Road to Immigrant Justice: Anakbayan NJ Supports Driver’s Licenses for All

For Immediate Release

Press Statement

May 27, 2015

Reference:

Joelle Eliza Lingat, Chairperson, Anakbayan New Jersey

201-675-8278, anakbayannj@gmail.com

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Driving on the Long Road to Immigrant Justice: Anakbayan NJ Supports Driver’s Licenses for All

Anakbayan New Jersey supports the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice’s demand for driver’s licenses for all. Today, Wednesday May 27th, the Jersey City Council will vote to support a statewide bill for Driver’s Licenses for all. We call on Jersey City to set an example for the rest of the state and to raise its voice to New Jersey  legislators and the governor by supporting access to driver’s licenses for all.

Nationwide, states are debating whether all age-eligible immigrants who can pass state driving tests should be able to obtain driver’s licenses.  There are about 12 million undocumented people and 270,000 undocumented Filipinxs in the U.S. Allowing access to driver’s license will further protect those 12 million undocumented people, including the 270,000 Filipinxs, all of the citizen and noncitizen passengers that ride in their vehicles, and citizen and noncitizen drivers alongside them on the road. To deny access to proper licensure will fail to address the  large population of uninsured and unlicensed drivers that undermines effective law making and enforcement, and ultimately, the true end goal of safety on our roads and access to transportation.

There is an undeniable trend that undocumented families have been systematically deprived of access to socio-economic stability, and are therefore more susceptible to the growing number of food deserts, unsafe housing, and unemployment. Low income families have to travel more to access the resources they need. The need to drive, especially in areas with a lack of public transportation services and deteriorating public infrastructure, will not go away. People will not stop driving, regardless of whether they have their license or not. As a government created by and for the people, it must address the realities of the people that comprise this nation and provide practical, workable solutions to the issues they face or be held accountable to its failure to uphold its original democratic principles.

On February 27, 2013 Jersey City was the first City Council to pass a resolution in support of the Tuition Equality Act, A4225. The bill allows undocumented students who have attended New Jersey high schools for a minimum of three years to qualify for in-state tuition rates in New Jersey’s public colleges and universities, on the condition that they earned a diploma or GED from a New Jersey high school and sign an affidavit promising to adjust their immigration status if the given the opportunity to do so. The statewide bill  was eventually passed on December 20, 2013 because of the action of more than a hundred dreamers, community and labor supporters, and social justice activists across the state.

Again, we call on Jersey City to be a leader in ensuring the rights and dignity for im/migrants of New Jersey by joining the seven other municipalities in their call for driver’s licenses for all. Eleven states and DC already allow undocumented residents to drive legally, and New Jersey should follow suit. As the most diverse city in the U.S., Jersey City’s neighborhoods are enlivened with the richness of our various communities’ diverse, but collective im/migrant experiences. Jersey City residents must protect the rights of the im/migrants and descendants of im/migrants that built this town and this nation. We cannot be complicit in the capitalist consumption of im/migrant culture, exploitation of im/migrant labor, and gentrification of im/migrant neighborhoods.  Whether first, second, or any generation of im/migrants, as residents of occupied Lenape territory, we are guests on this land, and all peoples deserve rights and dignity.

As Filipinx youth and students we recognize that our families did not serendipitously end up in foreign territory. The U.S. empire, itself, had control of the Philippines from 1898. The nature of the imperialist beast has intensified to plunder not only our lands, but also our people. The U.S. does not have a broken immigration system, but rather an immigration system explicitly and intentionally created for the exploitation and oppression of third world peoples. The U.S.-backed puppet administrations of nations across the world uphold policies that push its people out, such as the Labor Export Policy in the Philippines. Although thriving in resources, our home country’s biggest export remains its people with an estimated 6,000 Filipinx who leave the country every day. The unjust conditions of bureaucrat capitalism, feudalism, and U.S. imperialism plague families that are torn apart at the hands of profit-driven, nefarious politicians.

As third world peoples from all over the world, forced upon this land, we find ourselves at the intersection of continued oppression or reclamation of our struggle. We cannot afford to leave our fellow workers and farmers behind as we uplift our students, as we are all one community. The people of Jersey City and the entire state of New Jersey cannot uphold the class contradictions that government agents with ulterior motives culturally and politically force upon us. We must reclaim our collective fight and demand representatives that uphold principles of genuine justice and liberation for all, or replace them with representatives that do. Resolutions that pass must come from the demands of the people, and if they do not, these figures become placeholders for actual agents of change and can no longer be our representatives. This applies to our issues back home and in our respective home countries as well. Join Anakbayan New Jersey as we demand accountability from our local politicians, and the administration of our home country, with the resignation of our current president, BS Benigno Aquino III, who forces its citizens to migrate because of his crimes against the people. We may be driving on the long road to immigrant justice, but providing access to driver’s licenses is the next green light we must take. Aquino resign! Junk Labor Export Policy! Legalization for all! Drivers licenses for all!

UPDATE AS OF MAY 27, 2015 6:42 PM: Jersey City became the eighth city to pass a resolution in favor of drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. The campaign will now continue to Trenton, the capital of New Jersey.

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Anakbayan New Jersey Stands Alongside the Victims of the Kentex Factory Fire, Demand Justice & Accountability for All Workers

For Immediate Release

Press Statement

May 24, 2015

Reference:

Joelle Eliza Lingat, Chairperson, Anakbayan New Jersey

201-675-8278, anakbayannj@gmail.com

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Photo by: Noel Celis

Anakbayan New Jersey Stands Alongside the Victims of the Kentex Factory Fire, Demand Justice & Accountability for All Workers

        Anakbayan New Jersey sends its deep condolences to the workers and victims’ families of the Kentex factory fire. We vehemently condemn Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Aquino Administration for failing to ensure the proper health and safety standards for the Kentex workers and other workers across the Philippines. As Filipinx American and immigrant youth and students, we stand alongside the workers who have paid the ultimate price for producing profit for big business.

On May 13, 2015, 72 workers were burned to death and 20 more went missing at Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated, the biggest factory fire in the Philippines. Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz alleged that the Department of Labor and Employment inspected the factory in September 18, 2014 as did the Bureau of Fire Protection. However, Kilusang Mayo Uno (May 1st Movement), among various other labor organizations found violations of standards pertaining to general labor conditions and occupational health and safety in an investigation following the fire. Most likely, these violations caused the fatal conditions seen through the lack of fire exits, mishandling of volatile chemicals, and absence of smoke and fire alarms.

The Kentex factory tragedy began years before May 13th. The fire was a mere culmination of the socioeconomic death trap that is the sweatshop industry in the Philippines and other developing nations. Although the Kentex workers have been employed for almost two decades, they did not receive a clear contract or benefits. The seasonal work paid dependent on the number of shoes produced in 12-hour days. Their wages were as little as 300 pesos ($6.74) per day in contrast to the 471 pesos ($10.57) per day minimum wage, which in U.S. terms is roughly $0.57 per hour. Workers complained of the heat and smell of the factory, but became accustomed to it because of the lack of job opportunities elsewhere. Due to the nature of the work, people suffered scratches, bruises, burns, and even loss of limbs on a regular workday. There was a lack of safety equipment and no emergency protocol in case of accidents. Survivors of the accident said that they were running to escape, but did not know where to go.

So where do the Flipinx people go? Will they continue to be pushed out of the country to find work elsewhere, like us, products of Labor Export Policy? Or will they be forced to become accustomed to the stifling heat of corruption, only to be subjected to long-term death by chemical exposure and socioeconomic exploitation or short-term death by fire?

Although the Philippines boasts that it has the world’s fastest growing economy, the Kentex factory fire illustrates the price at which it must come and begs the question: for whom? An entire family was burned to death as both parents and three children worked for Kentex, leaving behind an orphaned child in primary school. The three high school youth sought to help through a summer job at the factory, while attempting to attain socioeconomic mobility by earning their education during the school year. Their deaths were manufactured by the Philippines’ semi-colonial, semi-feudal character, built to profit the few and the imperialist plunderer.

Youth and students are the next generation of workers, farmers, and professionals, but what future are they promising us when all that faces us under this system is tragedy? When our education system has become just as much a money-making machine as our government, the youth are being funneled into exploitative low-wage, seasonal work. Everyone is being burned alive at the hands of corrupt business.

However, the responsibility cannot fall solely on employers to ensure an appropriate working environment. Business owners take after the profit-driven framework of the Philippine economy. We must demand accountability from the government that neglects to ensure the health and safety of its people. The Department of Labor and Employment and Interior Secretary, Mar Roxas, has been an advocate for big business, and not the workers. The suffering of the Filipinx working class, both at home and abroad, is directly caused by the Aquino administration and its cronies, who protect multinational corporate interests over the livelihood and wellbeing of the ordinary citizen.

This past year alone, we have witnessed countless failures by the bureaucrat capitalist and puppet administration of BS Aquino The tragedy of the Kentex factory fire is on the coattails of the Save Mary Jane campaign, which was only partially won due to the people’s international and domestic efforts. She still remains incarcerated in Indonesia. BS Aquino’s inaction is consistent with the Mamasapano tragedy, another display of his rejection of truth and accountability with the fall of 44 Special Action Forces. Jennifer Laude, the trans womxn who was brutally murdered by U.S. marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.

The Filipinx people both at home and abroad cannot afford another tragedy. There must be accountability NOW, for if we wait any longer, as we did with Jennifer Laude, the Mamasapano tragedy, and for Mary Jane, what future “errors” await our people? We cannot allow another kababayan to die under the BS Aquino administration. It is up to the power of the people to demand that he resign and demand a new system for our people! With the fumbling of Binay and the failure, especially in this case of Mar Roxas, we must seek a solution beyond the electoral game of the wealthy. We must ignite the fire within our people, as the coals have been smoldering for too long!

As youth and students, we must march alongside workers and other oppressed classes to ensure a bright future, not only for ourselves, but especially for those who toil every day. We demand that the Aquino administration resign, or be ousted by the growing people’s movement in the nation and its diaspora.

Justice for Kentex workers and other victims of Occupational Health and Safety Standards violations! End impunity of Occupational Health and Safety Violations in the Philippines! Youth and students fight alongside workers for wages, jobs, and rights! Aquino resign!

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