Fil-Ams join ‘Million March’, calls on Youth to challenge racis

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New York City, NY – Filipino-Americans join the biggest protest to date this Saturday in response to the non-indictment of police officer Darren Wilson involved in the shooting of African-American teen Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold killing of 43 year old Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York.

The protest started at Cooper Union. The contingent then marched towards Washington Square Park to merge with an even bigger march. Estimates say 50 to 60 thousand protesters took to the streets chanting “Black lives matter”, “I can’t breathe”, and “Fist up, fight back!” This is only one of the many demonstrations happening as part of “Million March Day of Anger”.

“We, as Filipino-American youth and students, stand in solidarity with the families of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and everyone who has lost loved ones as a result of state-sanctioned violence. We join because an injury to one is an injury to all. We condemn the state violence against communities of color and the culture of impunity that breeds Darren Wilsons and Daniel Pantaleos,” said Chrissi Fabro, Chairperson of Anakbayan New York.

According to the young activists, this experience is not far from the experiences of Filipinos. “The killings of people of color and impunity that is prevalent in the United States resembles the killings of community leaders and activists and the culture of impunity that allows perpetrators off the hook in the Philippines,” Fabro added. She pointed out that 204 cases of extrajudicial killings of activists remain unsolved under the Aquino administration, while those responsible for these human rights violations continue to walk free.

On the other hand, Anakbayan is also calling on Filipino American youth to reflect and challenge existing “anti-Black racism” within the Filipino community. “We recognize that anti-Black racism has permeated even our own community. We acknowledge that this is a product of centuries of Western colonialism and assimilation to American culture that brainwashes us to be ashamed of our beautiful, brown skin,” said Joelle Eliza Lingat, Chairperson of Anakbayan New Jersey.

Anakbayan activists challenge Filipinos to play an active role in what they call as the “new” civil rights movement in the United States. “Every 28 hours a Black person is shot by the police. We challenge Filipinos, especially youth and students, to stand in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters by being agents of change in our own community. We must actively challenge racism and prejudices against other oppressed peoples,” said Lingat. “Let’s conduct discussions, dialogues and fora to educate ourselves and our community about the evils of racism and its systemic roots. We must do more than just show up, but actively uphold the demands of Black leaders, especially queer and trans* women, and participate in the various protests that are sweeping the country,” Lingat concluded.

Anakbayan is a national youth and student organization working to educate, organize and mobilize the Filipino community to address important issues that affect Filipinos in the US and the Philippines. It has 11 chapters in major cities in the United States.

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New Jersey Youth Activists Join National Day of Action to Demand Justice for Victims of Extrajudicial Killings, Call for an End to US Military Aid to the Philippines

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Jersey City, NJ- Filipino youth organization, Anakbayan New Jersey (AB-NJ), and community activists gathered at the Journal Square Memorial Fountain on Friday night as part of Anakbayan-USA’s National Day of Action to demand justice for small- scale miner and Sikadan-Anakbayan member, Freddie “Fermin” Ligiw, and his family.

The remains of Ligiw, his father, Licuben, and brother, Eddie, were found in a shallow grave close to their residence in Licuan-Baay, Abra, Philippines on March 7. The three were prominent community leaders who opposed large-scale mining operations in Abra, and were active members of grassroots organizations, Kakailan Salakniban Tay Amin a Nagtaudan (KASTAN), a provincial chapter of Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance, and Anakbayan.

Catalina Adorno, a close ally of AB-NJ and one of the founding members of Choforitos United, an immigrant youth activist group in Union City, NJ, commented in solidarity, “We are coming out in full support of upholding the human rights of everyone who are involved in advocating for social justice. No one should be killed anywhere for fighting for what they believe in.”

A fact-finding mission by the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance on March 9 revealed that the 41st Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was conducting combat operations against the New Peoples’ Army several days before the Ligiws went missing.

Perpetrators of these atrocious operations persist with impunity as the Aquino administration continues to implement Oplan Bayanihan (Operation Plan Shoulder-to-Shoulder), a counterinsurgency program that has historically targeted activists, peoples’ lawyers, journalists and other grassroots leaders in an effort to quell the revolutionary movement in the Philippine countryside. Aquino has also consistently promoted and justified the planned expansion of US military access to the Philippines.

Amidst the US Military Pivot to the Asia-Pacific, the number of human rights violations against activists and community leaders in the Philippines is steadily rising. At the end of 2013, Philippine human rights alliance, Karapatan, documented 169 cases of extrajudicial killings since President Benigno “NoyNoy” Aquino took office in 2010.

That number quickly increased during the first quarter of 2014 with the case of the Ligiw Family. On Saturday, the tragic murder of Romeo Capalla, member of Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA, Alliance of Ex-Detainees Against Detention and Arrests) and younger brother of Davao Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Capalla, became the 11th documented case of political killings this year.

Jenabi Pareja of the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) was critical of US involvement in HRVs overseas. “We aim to shed awareness on the murder of a fellow kasama (comrade), but also of our firm position to end all U.S. military aid to the Philippines,” said Pareja.

Since 2002, the US has sent a total of $500M in military aid to the Philippines. In addition, Secretary of State John Kerry pledged another $40M for 2014 after visiting the Southeast Asian country post-Super Typhoon Haiyan in December 2013. The US and Philippine governments are also entering the seventh round of talks, intending to close a deal on the “Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation” by next month.

Filipino activists in the U.S. expressed serious concern regarding this issue, considering its relationship to HRVs in the Philippines. Pareja added, “U.S. tax dollars and military positioning under the pretext of mutual defense and humanitarian support, are being used by elements of the AFP to carry out brutal attacks on people fighting for change in their communities back home. These funds should instead be channelled towards social services such as education, healthcare and welfare benefits for the working people of the U.S.”

In a Twitter exchange with Anakbayan NY and NJ on Saturday, the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC stated an ongoing investigation of the Ligiw case is being conducted. The Embassy also gave assurance that the “state will go after those behind these political killings”.

“We [Anakbayan chapters overseas] are deeply disturbed and outraged by this brutal attack to a kasama. We will not stop until justice is served- for Freddie, for Jonas, for Sherlyn, for Rachelle, and all victims of political killings back home,” said Nina Macapinlac, member of AB-NJ.

AB-NJ committed to raising awareness on the issue of HRVs in the Philippines, and sustaining the call for justice for all victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. Nina Macapinlac, member of AB-NJ, concluded,”We demand an immediate and thorough investigation of the murder of the Ligiw family, and an end to U.S. military aid to the Philippines. We are urging concerned citizens of New Jersey to contact Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee for the 113th Congress, to demand cutting all US military funding to the Philippines.”###

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References:

  1. Anakbayan Cordillera Statement on the Killing of Fermin Ligiw

  2. KARAPATAN, Alliance for Human Rights in the Philippines

  3. US Aid and Human Rights Violations in the Philippines

  4. PH Offers US Use of Bases

  5. Younger Brother of Bishop Capalla Murdered in IloIlo Province

Filipino Youth of New Jersey Joins International Day of Outrage vs. Pork Barrel, Demand an End to Government Corruption in the Philippines

For Immediate Release

August 26, 2013

Reference: Bea Sabino, Chairperson, Anakbayan New Jersey

       (201) 779 6886; anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com

Filipino Youth of New Jersey Joins International Day of Outrage vs. Pork Barrel,

Demand an End to Government Corruption in the Philippines

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New York City, NY- Anakbayan New Jersey (AB-NJ) united with several other Filipino community organizations in the region for a historic 100-people strong protest action in front of the Philippine Consulate in NYC, demanding nothing less than the abolition of the pork barrel system in all branches of government.

In solidarity with the August 26 Million People March in Luneta, overseas Filipinos took to the streets and social media to express outrage and disappointment over the Aquino regime’s ineptitude at genuinely addressing the economic and social problems of the Filipino people.

In NYC, community members showed up wearing pig masks and brought signs that said, “Abolish Presidential Pork Barrel”, “Re-Channel Funds to Social Services” and “Investigate and Prosecute All Involved in Corruption”. There were also chanting of a revised popular protest slogan that goes, “Makibaka! Huwag mang-baboy!” in reference to the pork barrel fund and corruption. Speakers also from various organizations lashed out against the gross governmental misuse of public funds.

A member of Anakbayan NJ, tells his experience, “The protest meant a great deal to me because it’s great to see Fil-Ams in my area still be so connected to the troubles of our homeland.  [We sent the message] that we are angry that supposed public servants are breaking their promises and stealing the money of the Filipino public,” said Jan Aguilos.

Clearly, despite Aquino’s supposed campaign to eliminate corruption, trillions of pesos in pork barrel funds are being laundered and pocketed by politicians every year through sham non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private investments; while the Filipino masses suffer under state budget constraints in education, health care, Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) protection, emergency relief and rehabilitation and other social services.

Scrap the Pork, Serve OFWs

The pork barrel scandal, where the exposé on Janet Lim- Napoles is but the tip of the iceberg, affects overseas Filipino workers as it affects their families back home. Corruption on the part of politicians is negatively connected to declining economic conditions in the Philippines, which push Filipinos to migrate abroad.

Nina Macapinlac, an AB-NJ member who migrated to the US 15 years ago, said, “This [government corruption] is outrageous because the pork barrel scandal illuminates the expansive pork barrel state of the Philippines, where power is so regularly used to exploit the public sphere. My family in the US works hard to send back money so this is just as much our concern as it is in the Philippines.”

Pork barrel funds include remittances sent home by Filipino migrants as well as millions more from tax impositions and state exactions through the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the Department of Foreign Affairs. These remittances reached a record high of $21.4 billion worth of personal cash and non-cash items and goods in 2012, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Despite OFWs’ undeniable contributions, protesters cited several examples of the Aquino government’s failure to provide assistance to thousands of OFWs. President Aquino’s P1-trillion pork barrel fund could well be spent on the repatriation costs of over 5,000 distressed and stranded Filipinos in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as legal assistance funds for victims of labor trafficking in the United States.

Unity is People Power

The current surge of grassroots activism in the Filipino community around the world has been likened to the rumbles of the First Quarter Storm of the ‘70s. Participants of the protest action vowed to remain united and continue fighting until the pork barrel is abolished.

“Today, I saw the potential of our People here in the States to truly come together and stand up for something,” shared Daniel Santiago, an AB-NJ member, reacting to his experience witnessing the great turnout of Filipinos in the NY/NJ area. “There were people from varying spectrums of beliefs and focused on different aspects of what is going on with our People, but we managed to be united on certain things. It was a beautiful thing to be able to see [these organizations] come together as well as see so many Filipinos come out against the pork barrel to be in solidarity with those back home fighting to see it gone,” Santiago concluded.

Anakbayan is calling on Filipino youth and students in the United States to join the campaign against government corruption and hold Philippine public officials accountable. Sign on and endorse the Youth and Student Unified Statement vs. Pork Barrel and Corruption by August 28, 2013 by visiting anakbayannynj.wordpress.com or emailing anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com with your name, organization and contact information.

The Filipino people, across various sectors of society, are stepping up and starting to question President Aquino’s eroding “daang matuwid” (righteous path). “The pork barrel scam is an unavoidable symptom of larger systemic problems in Philippine society. A bright, sustainable future depends on our determination to realize the demands of the campaign to abolish pork barrel and the system that perpetuates it through organized actions and people power. This broad movement for justice seeks to prove that the truly righteous path is the one we pave ourselves as a united force at home and abroad for the rights and welfare of our kababayans,” ended Bea Sabino, chairperson of AB-NJ. ###

Assembly Budget Committee approves Tuition Equality Act/A4225: NJ DREAMers, Students Celebrate First Step Towards In-State Tuition Victory in State Assembly

For Immediate Release

June 18, 2013

References:

Vera Parra, American Friends Service Committee, (917) 519 7657, vparra@afsc.org

Bea Sabino, Anakbayan New Jersey, (201) 779 6886, bmb.sabino@gmail.com

Assembly Budget Committee approves Tuition Equality Act/A4225: NJ DREAMers, Students Celebrate First Step Towards In-State Tuition Victory in State Assembly

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Trenton, NJ– The New Jersey state Assembly Budget committee approved assembly bill A4225, also known as the Tuition Equality Act, after New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition, New Jersey United Students, Anakbayan New Jersey and more than a hundred dreamers, community and labor supporters packed the hearing this past Monday in Trenton.

Assembly bill no. 4225 or the Tuition Equality Act, was introduced by Assemblyman Gordon Johnson. The bill will allow 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 have earned a diploma or GED from a NJ high school, and sign an affidavit promising to adjust their immigration status if given the opportunity to do so.

More than 20 people, including DREAMers and community leaders, testified in support of the Tuition Equality Act during the committee hearing. Speakers shared personal stories, and presented economic and moral platforms that garnered praises from assembly members.

“This bill is not only the morally correct thing to do, but the economically intelligent thing to do,” explains Giancarlo Tello, NJ DREAM Act campaign manager, during his testimony.  “Colorado’s fiscal note estimated the bill would increase revenue from tuition by about $2.0 million in FY 2013–14 and by about $3.0 million in FY 2014–15. Massachusetts similarly did a conservative estimate that said By the fourth year, new revenues from 756 to 876 undocumented students would total between $6.4 and $7.4 million.”

“In New Jersey we already invest over $200,000 in educating our DREAMers from elementary school through high school.  That is an investment that New Jersey, through its Out of State tuition policy, effectively kicks out to neighboring states such as New York, where tuition would be cheaper.  We then stand to lose all their tax dollars, expertise, and investments that would otherwise be put into New Jersey.” Tello continued.

Around 3:00pm, many at the assembly hearing erupted into cheers and applause when the committee members voted 8 out of 12 in favor of the bill. Following the Assembly budget committee vote, the coalition held a press conference to celebrate this important step and to call on the Senate to bring the bill up for a committee and floor vote.

“A4225 is only controversial to those who are not familiar with the undocumented student community’s moral and economic argument,” says Kamika Bennett, a student at Essex County College and member of the Essex County Dream Team.  “I ask the General Assembly to post and pass A4225.  I ask the Senate to post and pass the equivalent of A4225 now. We will work for as long as it takes to win tuition equality so that all students can access higher education in New Jersey,” Bennett concluded.

With overwhelming community support statewide, campaign organizers are confident the bill has the votes to pass in both the General Assembly as well as the Senate.  Student and youth leaders say they are also confident Governor Christie will choose to make this investment in New Jersey’s future when the bill reaches his desk.

Five months ago the youth and student coalition led by New Jersey United Students, the New Jersey Dream Act Coalition, and Anakbayan NJ gathered at the steps of the State House to announce the launch of New Jersey DREAM Act Campaign. Since then, they have continuously gained a growing number of supporters. There are over 70 student, community, labor and faith-based organizations that have signed on letters of support. Five City Councils, and two Counties have passed resolutions urging NJ State legislators to pass in-state tuition for DREAMers. Most recently, the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, representing all public and private 2-and-4-year colleges and universities in the state, and the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges passed resolutions in support of In-State Tuition for undocumented youth.

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For more information about the New Jersey DREAM Act Campaign, please visit www.njtuitionequity.wordpress.com

CITY COUNCIL APPROVAL OF IMMIGRANT AFFAIRS COMMISSION, A VICTORY FOR JERSEY CITY

For Immediate Release

April 26, 2013

Reference: Bea Sabino, Chairperson, Anakbayan New Jersey

                  201.779.6886, anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com

CITY COUNCIL APPROVAL OF IMMIGRANT AFFAIRS COMMISSION, A VICTORY FOR JERSEY CITY

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Jersey City, NJ- Amidst national discussion on comprehensive immigration reform, immigrant rights groups and dozens of supporters welcomed Jersey City City Council’s unanimous approval for the adoption of City Ordinance 13-047, establishment of an Immigrant Affairs Commission, at City Hall on April 24.

The evening began with representatives from progressive faith-based, advocacy, and student organizations and Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro, Jr. speaking out in support of the said ordinance and fair immigration reform at a rally in front of City Hall. A march around Grove St. followed, with supporters chanting, “Justice for workers and migrants” and “Time is now” before entering the City Hall Chambers for the council meeting.

About 20 people, mostly Jersey City residents, provided testimonies and recommendations for the establishment of an Immigrant Affairs Commission at the public hearing.  “An immigrant affairs commission is an important affirmation that the city council must take a proactive role in addressing the concerns of the Jersey City immigrant population,” said Vera Parra of the American Friends Service Committee.

Community advocates cite disparities in education and healthcare access, workplace abuse, neighborhood violence that have gone unreported among the immigrant community for years due to the lack of a safe platform to do so. “These [disparities] are issues with local solutions. To that end, we look forward to working with the Commission, once approved and appointed by the Mayor,” continued Parra.

While the “Gang of 8” proposal exhibits renewed resolve in border control and economic opportunism on the side of corporate America, immigrant communities are banding together to push for immigration reform that addresses the immediate concerns of immigrants.

Close to 40% of the population in Jersey City is foreign-born, and it is doing its part in holding local officials accountable in upholding immigrant rights.

Jersey City and other communities in New Jersey are taking a stand in the fight for fair and just immigration reform. We have been working hard to organize and rally the community, specifically in support of this commission and for tuition equity for undocumented students, making sure that the immigrant community’s voices are heard,” said Ren Carandang, Educational Officer of Anakbayan NJ, a progressive Filipino youth organization.

Anakbayan and its allied organizations are calling on the Jersey City community to join the vibrant peoples’ movement for immigrant rights and genuine immigration reform. For more information on how to get involved, send your name, contact information and a brief message to anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com.

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Thank you to all participating organizations: Anakbayan New Jersey, American Friends Service Committee, St. Peter’s University Social Justice Program, Gothic Knight Grassroots of New Jersey City University, St. Patrick and Assumption-All Saints Parish, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, 32BJ SEIU, Peoples’ Organization for Progress, South Asian Americans Leading Together, Lambda Sigma Upsilon, and the community at large.

PANAHON NA! Forum Highlights Struggle of Filipino Immigrants, Calls for Pinoys to Participate in Immigration Reform Debate

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Jersey City, NJ- Filipinos around New Jersey gathered at the Pope Lecture Hall at Saint Peter’s University last Sunday to shed light to the particular struggles of Filipino immigrants and to discuss the recently released immigration reform bill. At the Forum titled “Panahon Na!” (Time is Now), Anakbayan New Jersey, a Filipino organization that organized the event, called on the Filipino community to organize and actively engage in the upcoming debate around immigration reform.

‘We’re in the same boat’

The panel was comprised of Catalina Adorno, a student at Saint Peter’s University and member of the Social Justice Club; Edna Sabino, a Filipina teacher; Chia-chia Wang, an advocate from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Attorney Cristina Godinez, an immigrant rights advocate and lawyer, Hong-mei Pang of Revolutionizing Asian Immigrant Stories on the East Coast (RAISE), Hanalei Ramos, Northeast regional coordinator of BAYAN-USA, and Bea Sabino, chairperson of Anakbayan New Jersey. They talked about the wide array of experiences and hardships immigrants, documented or undocumented, face in the current immigration system.

“my experience as an immigrant has been difficult because not many people are welcoming of immigrants. Everyone makes the claim we are just here to steal their jobs. Jobs are being stolen from American citizens but not by immigrants- by corporations who are moving jobs into other countries in search for cheaper labor. That’s an entire issue in itself. I am just here to get an education.,” said Catalina Adorno, talking about the hardships of being an immigrant student. “As immigrants, our future is very uncertain.” Adorno concluded.

“My migration journey feels like a long wait at the doctor’s office, uncertain and anxiety-laden” said Edna Sabino, a pre-school teacher in Jersey City who migrated to the US in 2003 and was petitioned by an employer through an H1B visa. She is still waiting for her permanent resident card. She said “It is already hard for us to navigate the immigration current immigration system, I can just imagine how harder it is for those who are undocumented. Because of that I sympathize with the cause of undocumented immigrants. We are in the same boat,” referring to the struggle of undocumented and documented immigrants for immigration reform.

Meanwhile, Chia-chia Wang, Civic Participation coordinator of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) talked about local programs that creates more hardship for immigrant communities, such as the secure-communities program. “S-comm [secure communities] allows immigration agency to access local law enforcement’s fingerprint database and identify and locate immigrants regardless of crime conviction,”  Chia-chia Wang continued, “it makes immigrants fearful of working with local government, including the police department.”

“My stance on immigration reform is that they [US government] should just do a better job at it because, as many of the speakers mentioned, people are still having a hard time bringing their families to America. It takes years for parents or children to get their visas,” said Rogie Borja, President of Asian American Student Union (AASU) at Saint Peter’s University said after attending the forum.

Updates on the Gang of 8’s Immigration Reform Bill

Speakers also discussed updates on the new immigration bill entitled “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” released by the “Gang of 8”, a group of 8 senators from the republican and democratic party. According to the new bill, the new immigration system will put a “tough but fair path to citizenship” for qualified undocumented immigrants, it will shift from family-based to merit-based immigration allowing for in-demand low-skilled and skilled workers to come to the United States.

“Immigration needs to be an Asian issue. It needs to be visible in the Asian communities. Asian people need to be visible to politicians so that our demands are met– that our families are protected, that our workers are similarly protected,” said Hong-mei Pang of RAISE in reaction to the new immigration reform bill.

Hanalei Ramos, Regional Coordinator of BAYAN-USA said, “I really want us to support family reunification. I want us to be critical of the guest worker programs that are being proposed by the Gang of 8. I really want the deportations to end because people have the right to feel safe in their own communities, and to reap the benefits and rewards of the lives that they built in this country.”

A Call to Action for Filipinos

“My family and I are experiencing first hand how isolating and disempowering migration can be under the current system. We have been waiting for Green Cards for 7 years now. As one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the US, Filipinos have their migration stories as testament to what comprehensive immigration reform should be,”  shared Bea Sabino, chairperson of Anakbayan New Jersey, at the conclusion of the forum.

“We need a strong, united mass movement for immigrant rights to influence public policy. The Gang of 8 proposal proves that if we want genuine immigration reform, the people really do have to fight for it. We are urging the Filipino community to come out of the shadows, share their stories and join progressive Filipino organizations, such as Anakbayan, in guaranteeing equal rights to immigrants and an end to this modern day segregation of our schools, workplace and communities,” Sabino added

On May 1, 12 noon at Union Square, Anakbayan New Jersey, along with other Filipino organizations are calling on the community to march with them to demand a genuine immigration reform that reflects the needs of the Filipino community.

“Hindi lang ito laban ng mga walang papel, at lalong hindi rin ito laban lang ng mga Latino. Ito ay laban din ng ating komunidad. [this is not just the fight of the undocumented, and more so not just the fight of the Latino community. It is also our community’s fight.]” Sabino continued.

Panahon na! A Community Forum on Immigration Reform was organized by Anakbayan New Jersey and hosted by the Saint Peter’s University Social Justice Program. It was co-sponsored by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Pilipino-American Unity for Progress (Unipro), Asian American Student Union (AASU), Pan-American Concerned Citizen’s Action League (PACCAL), Kalusugan Coalition, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-USA).

Thousands Rally Demanding Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Groups Call for Sustained Actions to Achieve Dignity and Justice for Immigrants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 10, 2013

Reference: Bea Sabino, Chairperson, Anakbayan NJ

                 anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com; 201.779.6886

Thousands Rally Demanding Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Groups Call for Sustained Actions to Achieve Dignity and Justice for Immigrants

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Jersey City, NJ- Anakbayan New Jersey, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Action 21 marched with other community organizations, union members, church groups and families who gathered by the thousands at Liberty State Park on April 6.

People from across New Jersey mobilized to demand the immediate passage of a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill. They carried signs saying, “We are not invisible. We are immigrants” and “NJ Demands Fair Reform,” while shouting, “The time is now for immigration reform!” U.S. legislators are expected to release a CIR proposal upon their return from Spring Recess this week.

According to Anakbayan, the inefficient, inhumane, profit-oriented character of the U.S. immigration system has been exposed throughout the years. In addition to the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. with no path to legalization, millions more are held up in the limbo of decades-long backlogs in visa processing for family and work-based petitions. Moreover, U.S. taxpayers spend an average of $2 billion a year on detaining immigrants in private prisons contracted by the government in its crusade to eliminate the undocumented.

“Ideally, the CIR proposal should address pressing issues such as separation of families, human trafficking and modern day slavery. It should also recognize the global system that perpetuates poor living conditions in developing nations, which lead to the influx of migrant workers to the US,” said Bea Sabino, Chairperson of Anakbayan NJ.

“We aim to promote migrant people’s narratives, and continue to organize the immigrant community in order to sustain the people’s movement for genuine immigration reform. We demand a realistic path to legalization for all migrants, just and fair working conditions, equal access to education regardless of immigration status, and an end to criminalization and illegalization of immigrants,” concluded Sabino.

Anakbayan NJ and its allied organizations urge the community to participate in the conversation about CIR and take an active role in holding elected officials accountable to upholding the rights of immigrants at the local, state and national level.

CIR is long overdue. Panahon Na (The Time is Now)! A Community Forum on Comprehensive Immigration Reform” is taking place on Sunday, April 21, 3-5pm at Pope Hall, St. Peter’s University, 115 Glenwood Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07306.

Everyone is invited to listen to stories of immigrants from different backgrounds who are coming out of the shadows to fight for immigrant rights. The forum will also discuss how immigration reform will affect the community and how individuals can get involved in making history happen.

For more information on how to take part in the campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Jersey City, contact Anakbayan NJ at anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com. ###

DREAMers SCORE VICTORY FOR TUITION EQUITY AT JERSEY CITY COUNCIL MEETING

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Jersey City, NJ- Supporters of the Tuition Equity for DREAMers bill packed the city hall on February 27 in Jersey City as the council put a resolution in support of Tuition Equity to a vote. A dozen DREAMers and supporters gave powerful testimonials at the public hearing which ended with a unanimous city council vote in favor of the resolution. 

About 75 DREAMers, activists, church leaders and community supporters showed up to rally in front of the Jersey City City Hall on Wednesday evening to demand the council’s approval of resolution “J”, co-authored by Councilman-at-large, Rolando Lavarro, Jr. and Councilwoman Nidia Lopez. They marched around Grove St. chanting, “undocumented, unafraid!” and “Up, up with education! Down, down with deportations!” before lining up to enter the City Hall chambers.

Resolution J declares that Jersey City’s local government supports the Tuition Equity for DREAMers bills and urges the state legislature to pass A1659/S2355 and A3509/S2479.  A1659/S2355 would allow almost all New Jersey High School Graduates access to In-State Tuition rates, regardless of immigration status. A3509/S2479 calls for In-State Tuition rates plus access to state financial aid at New Jersey’s public colleges and universities for anyone with a high school diploma or GED from an educational institution in New Jersey regardless of immigration status.

“The community must realize that undocumented or not, every human being has rights to education, a pathway to legitimately contribute to, and benefit from, American society. Tuition Equity in NJ is just a stepping stone in addressing the larger immigration issue in the country. Anakbayan, New Jersey United Students, New Jersey Dream Act Coalition and our allied organizations are taking this step in continuing the fight against the illegalization and criminalization of immigrants. We are demanding an end to modern-day segregation,” said Bea Sabino, Chairperson of Anakbayan New Jersey.

“We welcome this decision by the Jersey City Council. 38.2% of the city’s population is foreign-born. It is clear that Jersey City owes its rich diversity and revitalizing economy to immigrants. The city council recognized that through the hard work of all the DREAMers and supporters who came out to the meeting. It is a proud moment for Jersey City,”Sabino concluded.

Jersey City is the first municipality in all of New Jersey to support Tuition Equity for DREAMers. It now serves as an example to other cities across the state in taking a stand for a person’s right to affordable and quality education, regardless of immigration status.

Anakbayan is calling on Filipino-American youth and the rest of the community to get involved in the NJ Tuition Equity for DREAMers (NJ-TED) campaign now. If you or your organization would like to join the NJ-TED Coalition, please email Anakbayan New Jersey at anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com or Giancarlo Tello, Campaign Manager, at GiancarloT@njdac.org.

Thank you to all participating organizations:  Anakbayan NJ, NJ Dream Act Coalition, NJ United Students, American Friends Service Committee, Action 21, Mujeres Unidas En Accion, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, RAISE, St. Peter’s University Social Justice Program, New Jersey City University Gothic Knights Grassroots, and community at large

Filipino Youth in New York and New Jersey Celebrate “Florida 15” Victory

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Press Statement

27 February 2013

References:
Bea Sabino, Chairperson, Anakbayan NJ
Matthew Cheirs II, Chairperson, Anakbayan NY
Contact: anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com

FILIPINO YOUTH IN NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY CELEBRATE “FLORIDA 15” VICTORY

Anakbayan Vows to Keep Up the Fight Against Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery

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The “Florida 15” at a Press Conference in Woodside, NY. Photo by Jonna Baldres

On February 18, the “Florida 15” (F-15) labor trafficking survivors announced the approval of their T-Visas and issuance of employment authorization cards in a press conference with Atty. Felix Vinluan and members of the Stop Trafficking Our People (STOP) Task Force led by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) at the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center in Woodside, NY.

The F-15, surrounded by community organizations and supporters, declared their continued commitment to speak out against labor trafficking and to demand justice for other migrant workers experiencing unfair, slave-like labor conditions in the United States.

The “Florida 15” Inspires Us

Anakbayan congratulates the “Florida 15” and the STOP Task Force for reclaiming the workers’ legal right to live and work in the United States. The F-15’s former employer and owner of San Villa Ship Management Co., Jose “Jojo” Villanueva, deprived them of that right when he failed to renew the workers’ H2-B visas without their knowledge, leading them to overstay in the US without proper documentation until the approval of their T-Visas in the beginning of February 2013.

For the F-15, the truth in their shared experiences is the only weapon against the injustices that they suffered. They sacrificed time with their families, safety and security, and even risked unemployment in the name of exposing the plight of migrant Filipino workers. They chose to fight rather than to surrender, despite the obvious challenges of going public with their case.

For these reasons and more, Anakbayan is grateful for the inspiration that the F-15 has given its membership and the community. The F-15 opened their homes to us, shared their stories and their goals with us, and most importantly, helped build people power among the Filipino community. They proved that youth and students united with the workers in struggle makes for a strong movement that genuinely responds to the interests of the broader population.

The Struggle Continues

The efforts to achieve justice for the F-15 are far from over. Villanueva and his cohorts have yet to pay back-wages and costs to all damages imposed on the trafficked workers. Villanueva is currently in hiding from several civil lawsuits filed against him.

Anakbayan is calling on the community to hold Villanueva accountable, and make him face the allegations against him in court. If you have any information regarding Jose “Jojo” Villanueva’s whereabouts, please contact Michelle Saulon, NAFCON Regional Coordinator, at michelle.saulon@gmail.com or call (347) 867-1550.

“Modern Heroes”, Slaving Without Protection From the Government

The F-15 is only one group out of the increasing number of Filipino workers coming out of the shadows of labor trafficking and modern-day slavery. NAFCON has been handling over a hundred individual cases of human trafficking since its founding in 2003.

Anakbayan challenges the Aquino government to be accountable for the gross failure of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Philippine Embassy and Consular Offices across the United States to protect and uphold the rights of Filipino workers.

The estimated 12 million Filipinos living abroad are hailed as “Modern Heroes” because of their significant contributions to the Philippine economy. Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFWs) remittances accounted for 10% of the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011. Additionally, OFWs sent $17.3 billion in remittances from January to September 2012 alone.

Despite these figures, OFWs run the risk of being involved in unfair labor operations, various forms of employer abuse, detention and deportation, while also dealing with family separation for indefinite periods of time.

Anakbayan demands that the Philippine government take its duty to protect the rights and welfare of OFWs seriously. We cannot allow any more instances of worker exploitation, abuse and death among the people who contribute so much to the wealth of our nation but receive very little in return.

Scrap the Labor Export Policy

An average of 4,600 Filipinos, coursed through government agencies such as the POEA, decide to leave the Philippines each day to take their chances in other countries in order to provide for the education, healthcare and livelihood of their families.

The Philippine government’s weak attempt at industrializing the country is by selling our people and resources to foreign investors and companies. This has led to low-paying jobs and widespread unemployment at home, compounded by rising costs of basic commodities and privatized social services.

The commodification of the Filipino people as export products to boost the country’s economy has been in place since the 1970s. Anakbayan believes that genuine land reform and national industrialization of vital industries is the only way to truly revitalize the Philippine economy. This will end the nation’s dependence on exporting people and resources for cheap in exchange for expensive imported goods and services that majority of the Filipino people cannot afford or benefit from.

Filipino Youth United for Immigrant Rights

The victory of the Florida 15 is a product of sustained collective action from individuals and organizations that united for immigrant rights.

Anakbayan is urging Filipino-American youth to take a stand against labor trafficking and modern-day slavery. Get involved in the Stop Trafficking Our People Campaign by contacting Yves Nibungco, Coordinator of the STOP Task Force and Secretary General of Anakbayan NJ, at yvesnibungco@gmail.com or call 201 253 5662.

Join Anakbayan’s “Youth for Immigrant Rights” contingent at the International Workers’ Day March in Union Square, NYC on May 1st, and the Philippine Independence Day Celebration on June 2nd.

The youth must be active participants on the side of the workers and not just neutral spectators to these injustices. As inheritors of this society, we are in the position to critique the Philippine government and the global system that forces our people to endure such hardships just to survive. As inheritors of this society, we are also in the best position to push for, and implement, alternatives that would ensure a brighter future for immigrant communities in the US.###

Filipino Youth and Students Extend Support to Enslaved Filipino Oil Rig Workers and Their Families

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Photos by Robert Roy

For Immediate Release

21 January 2013

References:
Matthew Cheirs II, Chairperson, Anakbayan New York
Bea Sabino, Chairperson, Anakbayan New Jersey
Contact: anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com

FILIPINO YOUTH AND STUDENTS EXTEND SUPPORT TO ENSLAVED FILIPINO OIL RIG WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES

Activists urge the community to defend immigrant workers’ rights in the face of modern-day slavery

New York, NYProgressive Filipino youth group, Anakbayan, participated in a series of events in New York City to demand justice for the Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS) workers. A group of over 70 Filipino workers have filed a class action lawsuit against Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc. for labor abuse and exploitation, unlawful deductions, isolation and violation of civil liberties, human trafficking, racism, discrimination and modern day slavery.
Since 2008, an estimated 500 Filipinos have worked for GIS, deemed one of the most dangerous oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Its serious safety code violations need to be addressed immediately, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The Justice for GIS Filipino Workers Campaign (J4GIS-Fil-Workers), led by Philippine Forum, was launched on January 16 with a press conference composed of community leaders, Filipino civil rights attorney, Ellaine Carr, two former GIS workers, and the wife and children of Avelino Tajonera, one of the three Filipino workers killed in the oil platform explosion on November 16, 2012.

Youth Unite with Immigrant Workers

The New York and New Jersey chapters of Anakbayan are collaborating with various immigrant and worker groups in the area to raise awareness about labor trafficking and modern day slavery.

On January 18th, a picket was held in front of the Philippine Consulate in New York to demand accountability from the Philippine government.

Philippine Ambassador Cuisia claims he has been aware of the unsafe working conditions at GIS since 2010; yet 3 of our kababayans are dead, hundreds exploited. The Philippine government, through the Labor Export Program, supplies the world’s industries with millions of Filipino workers. Workers whose rights and welfare the government fails to protect,” said Matthew Cheirs II, Chairperson of Anakbayan New York.

The Louisiana contingent’s visit concluded with a Community Reception and Candlelight Vigil on the evening of January 19 at the Bayanihan Community Center in Queens, NY.

Dozens of supporters came out to hear the workers’ testimonies about the harsh conditions they experienced while working at GIS. The Tajonera family shared stories of courage and grief over the death of Avelino Tajonera, who risked his life to provide for his wife and young children.

Trafficking survivors, including the “Florida 15”, shared words of encouragement with the GIS workers. Community members and grassroots organizations also commended the workers’ determination and expressed their support for the campaign.

Alice Feng, Educational Officer of the Revolutionary Students Coordinating Committee, said in solidarity, “As students, we have the task of bringing their [the workers’] struggles to light in the broadest way possible. Our struggles on campus are connected to our struggles in our communities and our homelands.

Take a Stand Against Slavery

The workers’ week- long visit to New York City is only the beginning. Anakbayan is urging Filipino- American youth in New York and New Jersey to stand up for immigrant rights and actively participate in the J4GIS-Fil-Workers campaign.

Filipino laborers escaping slavery under Spanish colonial rule at the time of the Manila- Acapulco trade were the first Filipino settlers in the United States. They found sanctuary in Louisiana in the late 18th century. Today, workers imported from the Philippines, are enduring similar conditions that Filipino pioneers in the US fled from centuries ago,” shared Bea Sabino, Chairperson of Anakbayan New Jersey.

Slavery should not have a place in the 21st century,” continued Sabino. “We call on our fellow Filipino youth to take a stand against exploitation and racism. Help us spread the word by organizing public forums and signing up for the Fact Finding Mission to Louisiana on February 20-24, 2013.

To set up an information session at your church, campus or community space, please contact Bea Sabino (201.779.6886) for New Jersey, or Matthew Cheirs II (917.601.0378) for New York.

For more information about the Justice for GIS Filipino Workers Campaign, please contact Anne Beryl Corotan (516.901.1832), aberylc@gmail.com or Jonna Baldres (646.578.7390), jonnabaldres@gmail.com of Philippine Forum.###

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