2014 Year In Review: Lumalakas! Lumalawak! Lumalaban!

Thank you for supporting Anakbayan-USA in another empowering year of serving the people. Let us wrap up the 2014 by going through the highlights of this year.

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Early this year, we saw the growing unity among Filipino-American youth and students with the formation of Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network, a national network of Filipino-American youth and students in response to the devastation of typhoon Haiyan.

In March, we were able to launch coordinated actions to condemn the murder of Freddie Ligiw, a member of Anakbayan Abra, and his family by the fascist Armed Forces of the Philippines. Anakbayan chapters across the country scrambled to organize indignation protests. We were able to highlight the ongoing human rights violations and the need to cut US military aid to the Philippines.

In June, we held our first ever national training with the goal of further strengthening our capacity to organize and wage campaigns. This was due to demand from our organizers on the ground and also a necessity as we prepare to contribute in a big way to the advancement of the National Democratic movement. Around 100 Filipino youth and student activists from across the country convened in San Francisco State University on a two-day training and sharing of best strategies and experiences. The workshops ranged from conducting social investigation, solid mass organizing, grassroots fundraising to waging mass campaigns. We also discussed the effects of neo-liberalism on education and the growing problem of student debt.

This summer, our chapters have helped in a big way in the holding of the first youth and student-led relief and rebuilding mission under the banner of Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network. 24 participants joined from Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Southern California, Mid West and East Coast.

In September, our members have participated in the People’s Climate March, biggest climate action held in New York City to demand system change not climate change. We helped unite and mobilize various Filipino organizations to take a stand.

At People's Climate March in New York City, September 2014

At People’s Climate March in New York City, September 2014

Also in September we have made the headlines by confronting BS Aquino at his speaking engagement at Columbia University. We have exposed the corruption of Typhoon Haiyan donations, the ongoing struggle of farmers in Hacienda Luisita and the continued policy of repression and killing of activists.

In November, we have helped organize a national week of action to commemorate the first year of Typhoon Haiyan with Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network. We also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Kabataang Makabayan. Cultural performances and discussions were held across the country to study and uphold the legacy and revolutionary vision of Kabataang Makabayan.

This year we have seen the strengthening of established chapters and the creation of new ones. We have seen the rise of new leaders in all our chapters but notable are the elections of new Executive Committees of New York, New Jersey and Silicon Valley chapters. We have also established new chapters in the Inland Empire and Long Beach, California.

As an international movement, we also have to mention that this year we were able to convene the leaders of Anakbayan chapters from United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and the Philippines to strengthen coordination and share experiences and best practices.

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Anakbayan Philippines, Melbourne, USA, Netherlads and Canada

In recognition of our internationalist duty and the need to build cooperation and unity with other youth and students and people’s organizations, we have advanced our solidarity work. We have sent delegates to United We Dream’s congress in Arizona last February. We have also sent a delegate to the United States Student Association congress in California. We’ve sent delegates to the National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference in Massachusetts and have linked arms with youth and students in various mobilizations on various issues: in defense of refugee migrant children and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We have also established communications with the National Students for Justice in Palestine, Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán (MECHA), Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and many more.

We have also seen the growing militancy of actions in confronting the enemies of our people. We’ve used sit-ins, mud-stenciling and lightning rallies to expose BS Aquino and uplift the voices of our people back home.

There are lots of challenges to overcome, lessons to be learned and work to be done. We are ever more committed to advancing our people’s struggle for liberation and democracy. Onwards to 2015! Onwards to more victories!

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).