Press Statement

July 17, 2011

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson of GABRIELA USA,

Filipino American Women in the US Stand with Undocumented Journalist, Jose Vargas

Members of GABRIELA USA stand in solidarity with acclaimed journalist and Pulitzer Prize Winner Jose Vargas, who recently published an article in the New York Times about his life as an undocumented resident in the United States.

His story represents one out of the million undocumented Filipinos in the U.S. Vargas’s article has exposed the U.S. immigration system as one that strips human beings of their worth based on citizenship. Regardless of one’s social contributions, whether as a writer, healthcare professional, student, teacher, or domestic worker there is no clear path to citizenship.

Member organizations of GABRIELA USA and other immigrant rights advocates have been raising the need for “Legalization for All” since 2006 when the Sensenbrenner Bill was about to be passed, which would have criminalized undocumented immigrants and those who helped the undocumented, and again in 2010 when Arizona’s SB1070 legislation would have allowed police to racially profile and question anyone that “looked” like an undocumented immigrant. However, due to the outpour of resistance from immigrant communities and allies nationwide these bills were not fully enacted into law.

“We applaud Vargas and his truth-telling because he shows the reality of the Filipino community, and it’s important and crucial that we as Filipinos, undocumented or citizen, stand up for the rights of all immigrants,” said Tina Shauf from Babae in San Francisco.

Vargas is one of many Filipinos, undocumented or not, who migrated to the US as a result of the poor Philippine economy brought about by a long history of colonialism and imperialism. The pressures of an economy completely lacking in any national industry; the overwhelming debt of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank; and the unfair Labor Export Policy that forces Filipinos to leave their homes in order to seek jobs overseas–has led to a culture of migration, one that necessitates that Filipinos leave their country if they want to be able to support their families, and which ironically, ultimately breaks many families apart.

“We have seen the effects of the U.S. Immigration system on our community– mothers and fathers being separated from their families for years because they don’t have the right papers to travel back home. Parents should not have to leave their children and families in order to support them, there should be jobs in the Philippines to provide some economic stability,” said Irma Bajar, chairperson of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in New York City.

“Our migration story is not old, our families have been migrating to the US in waves since the Filipino farm workers in the 1900s, to the nurses in the 1970s, and still to this day there is no systematic way for immigrants to become a citizen. This is the US continuing to use the immigration system in it’s original design to create a workforce of undocumented immigrants as cheap, docile, fearful, and vulnerable workers to extract as much profits for the U.S. Corporations. The system is not broken, but it is meant to divide workers and further exploit immigrants and push them into the shadows.” said Raquel Redondiez, chairperson of GABRIELA USA.

Vargas’ article has helped raise the discussion and the need to change the dehumanizing immigration system.  His courageous expose is an inspiration for other immigrants, and has encouraged others like the Florida 15, trafficked workers from Miami Florida, to speak out. Similarly, undocumented students in San Bernadino, CA rallied against the unjust immigration laws that criminalize students working hard to be productive contributors to U.S. society.

“In Los Angeles, which is predominantly Mexican and Latin American – Vargas’s article has helped raise the issue of immigration as a unifying issue for our communities. We must continue to keep fighting together on this issue to assure that we change this immigration system not just for Filipinos but for all immigrants,” stated Terrie Cervas of Sisters of Gabriela, Awaken! (SiGAw) in Los Angeles.

As long as our homeland and many others in the world are plundered for their natural resources and prevented from industrializing, as long as our people are displaced by militarization, and our governments plagued by corruption, forced migration will continue to be a problem. “To address the needs of immigrants in the U.S., it is necessary for us to also address the reasons why our people are forced to leave our home country to begin with. The Philippine government has a hand in it as well,” says Claudia Parras from Pinay sa Seattle.

In support and solidarity with Jose Vargas, and millions of other undocumented immigrants, we urge that you sign this petition of support and help spread awareness on this important issue: