BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
Immigrants in the United States are said to be the targets of a new bill in the U.S. Congress which essentially criminalizes undocumented persons and penalizes those who will take care of them. Given that there are four million Filipinos in the U.S. and about 60,000 Filipinos go to the U.S. yearly, it is not surprising that Filipinos are the main participants in protest actions against the proposed bill.
Filipinos in the United States declared that they will support the call for a general strike called “A Day without Immigrants,” if the U.S. Senate will pass the anti-immigrant Sensenbrenner Bill. Immigrants who joined the historic California march on March 25 also vowed to continue staging protests until the bill is junked.
Although media reports said that only up to 500,000 went out to protest on March 25, more than a million immigrants actually flooded the streets of Los Angeles to demand for equal rights for all immigrants, said Chito Quijano of the Los Angeles chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance).
The protest is said to be the largest mobilization in the history of California. It was organized by a broad coalition of immigrant organizations including Bayan-USA, an alliance of Filipino organizations in the U.S.
Quijano, also a health union organizer for the California Nurses Association in Los Angeles, described the march as that of the first Edsa Revolution of 1986. He said that the Filipino contingent, composed of professionals and low-wage workers, planned to march together but they did not find each other because of the thick crowd.
As early as 8 a.m., Quijano said that people filled the Olympic and Broadway avenues, the starting point of the march. The whole stretch of Broadway Avenue was already impassable by 10 a.m, he said. Filipinos were among the crowd of mainly Latinos.
The immigrants opposed U.S. House Resolution 4437, also known at the Sensenbrenner Bill (Border Protection, Anti-Terror, and Illegal Immigration Bill). HR 4437 was introduced by Congressman James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on Dec. 6. The U.S. House of Representative passed this resolution with a 239 to 182 vote on Dec. 16.
In an email interview with Bulatlat, Berna Ellorin of Bayan-USA described this bill as “perhaps the most Draconian anti-immigrant bill we have seen in a long time” which “(essentially criminalizes) undocumented persons and those who offer assistance to them.”
Based on Bayan-USA statement, “the bill will criminalize caring individuals, churches, charities, community groups, and similar service organizations that give humanitarian assistance to families without legal residence status.” Moreover, it said, “the bill will also allow the government to seize the properties of these individuals and organizations because they did not thoroughly check the legal resident and immigration status of people before providing assistance.”
She said that Filipinos could be part of the “undocumented population” because the U.S. Census reports only three million Filipinos when actually there are four million of them in the U.S.
“And we have one of the largest undocumented populations in the country,” she said, given that 60,000 Filipinos enter the U.S. annually. “So we stand to be hit hard by any bill that comes our way, more than other immigrant communities.”
At present, Ellorin said, the U.S. Senate’s judiciary committee presented a version of the bill to the Senate for debate, but replaced the criminalization clause with a temporary guest worker provision. Ellorin however said that the “people’s movement in the streets needs to keep the pressure on” as the controversial clause could be reversed during the deliberations at the U.S. Senate.