Immigrants, and the Economy: Filipinos In A Post-9/11 World
safety and well-being of our community is at stake. The Filipino community in
the U.S. has become a target of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 "war on
terrorism" laws and policies under the pretext of "defending America's
JAY MENDOZA* / FOCUS
following are excerpts from a 29-page report of the same title released by the Filipino Community Support (Focus), a Filipino
support group in the United States. It provides an
extensive discussion and analysis of the state of Filipino migrants in the U.S.
Published in the wake of President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address,
the report "debunks any sweet-talk by the President to create illusions for
the general public.)
community under attack
safety and well-being of our community is at stake. The Filipino community in
the U.S. has become a target of the Bush administration’s post-911 “war on
terrorism” laws and policies under the pretext of “defending America's
Bush administration’s domestic policies, such as the Homeland Security Act
(enacted November 25, 2002), the USA Patriot Act (enacted October 26, 2001,
Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to
Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism), the Aviation and Transportation Security Act
(enacted Nov. 19, 2002) and other unjust immigration policies have caused
widespread trauma and distress to members of our community. Innocent people,
mostly immigrants, have been arrested, disappeared, jailed, fired from their
jobs, deported and harassed by U.S. government authorities, its agencies and the
local police and military.
children, families and entire community are suffering from injustice, either
directly or indirectly. It is to the point that U.S. military agents have
invaded our homes or have picked us up off the streets. They continue to
secretly put us under surveillance, launch surprise-raids, detain us
unrighteously, interrogate us as suspected terrorists, and immorally and
inhumanely treat us. We are constantly threatened by the serious negative
impacts of the new laws and the arbitrary actions of the government. This is
true even for those who are U.S. citizens.
hit by the current situation are Filipino immigrant workers and their families,
especially women and children. These includes legal permanent residents, those
with temporary visas, the undocumented, as well as those immigrants who are
naturalized U.S. citizens and Filipino Americans born in the U.S., who are of
Bush administration has used the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 to arrogantly
push through anti-immigrant, anti-worker, racist and authoritarian measures.
This is being done through legislative actions, by direct executive order, or
through Cabinet member-appointed agencies and bodies.
U.S. economic crisis underlies the intensified attacks
current U.S. economic crisis is the context in which the “war against
terrorism” has developed. It is the underlying context in which to understand
the intensifying problems that the Filipino community is facing in the U.S. The
U.S. is currently undergoing its worst economic recession in recent history.
economic crisis is provoking more anti-immigrant sentiment, hate crimes and
racial profiling against Filipinos and immigrant communities. The economic
crisis has also made Filipino families hard-pressed to find stable and secure
jobs, make their monthly payments without increasing their debt, as well as
maintain or be able to afford adequate healthcare, childcare, rest, recreation,
other impending needs, and have ample opportunities and access to basic social
California, where over 50% of all Filipinos in the U.S. reside, the state is
experiencing its gravest multi-billion dollar budget deficit in recent history
($34.8 billion as of January 2003) . One result of the crisis is that
immigrant workers are being blamed for taking “American jobs.” This
parallels the increasing rates of unemployment across the nation (6% in November
2002, which is some 3.2 million persons)  and record-breaking levels of
unemployment in California (6.4% in November 2002) . Beyond these official
numbers, the actual number of unemployed, underemployed and job-starved people
reaches much higher. There are less and less public tax monies available for
decent education, healthcare, childcare, unemployment compensation, basic social
services and other needs of families and the community.
more and more public tax dollars are being used to build-up the U.S.
military-industrial complex for the “war on terrorism.” The US military
budget for fiscal 2003 will be $355 billion, an increase of $24 billion over
fiscal year 2002 . This represents just the Defense Department; when homeland
security and other measures are included, President Bush expects to spend up to
$2.1 trillion . The U.S. war machine and defense industry are one of the
greatest benefactors of the Bush administration’s aggression. However,
children, working class families, women and other sectors and peoples are the
ones who suffer the most. The current economic crisis of the U.S. and California
came about after a relatively short period of “prosperity.” This
“prosperity” was mainly limited to rich investors and high-tech
professionals during the 1980’s and early 90’s.
economy slumped down rapidly and currently in 2002 has resumed to a recessive
decline, due to the over-production of goods with not enough consumers of buy
them, resulting in a decrease in the margins of profit for multi-national
corporations and financial investors and mass lay-offs for both workers and
combat the crisis, the government, through the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank,
dictated a record-breaking 10 federal interest rate cuts in order to pump-prime
the economy. The cuts to overnight bank lending rates to 2% represent a 40-year
low . They hoped these measures would promote more wealthy individuals to
borrow, spend and circulate money and create more jobs. But this has not worked
and the economy is still troubled.
federal, state and local government budget deficits are out of control. The
government at all levels has been forced to cut and gut public programs across
the board. They have laid-off of thousands of government employees due to huge
budget deficits, paralleling the private sector’s mass lay-offs in most
production areas. The U.S. Congress nearly cut-off extended unemployment
benefits for 800,000 persons in
of 2002, swelling the ranks of those with nowhere to go and no work to find .
dividing gap between the rich and the poor is increasing in the U.S. Earnings
for the rich rose 15%, while earnings for the poor rose only 1% (2000) .
Jobs, housing, healthcare, education, adequate rest and recreation, and social
services are the basic necessities of the people. But, the people’s total
needs are not being met–not by the government and not by the private sector.
This situation breeds protest, public outcry, resistance and even revolutionary
is the situation that Filipino workers and immigrants in the U.S. find
and company versus Filipinos for social justice
negative impact of the Bush administration’s laws is becoming so widespread in
the Filipino community, that it is evident his administration will not be
supported by the Filipino community. Nor will Filipinos support other
politicians that follow the same or similar agenda, no matter what political
party a candidate belongs.
Bush administration has passed sweeping authoritarian measures to intensify the
“war against terrorism” and its propaganda. Many of the new laws and
policies are in contempt and violation of people’s basic civil liberties and
democratic freedoms. The Bush administration does this in an attempt to silence
the people. But it will never work.
activists and social justice activists, who are critical of the U.S. government,
have become special targets of the Bush administration’s slander and black
propaganda campaign. Activists and everyday people, are threatened by being
branded as “terrorists” or “suspected terrorists,” merely for raising
their voices and protesting against U.S. aggression, military intervention, and
for peace, human rights, genuine democracy and in international solidarity with
peoples and Third World nations who are being unilaterally attacked by the U.S.
military or with U.S. government support.
the USA Patriot Act, the U.S. government redefined “terrorism” to include
those “suspected” of terrorist activity and those who “support”
terrorist activity by material or other means. The expanded definition gives the
Bush administration license to go after anyone they want, and all they have to
say is “a person is a suspected terrorist”–no real evidence is required
Bush government has gone so far as to recruit neighborhood civilian resident
agents and public utility workers for setting-up neighborhood-based spying
operations for “suspected terrorist activity.” This was done through the
Terrorist Information Prevention System (TIPS) program proposed in July of 2002,
which sought 1 million “Citizen’s Watch” volunteers. 
authorized the use of secret military tribunals for civilians through an
Executive Order enacted November 13, 2002, known as “Military Order -
Detention, Treatment and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against
Terrorism.” The order allowed for no evidence to be required to any public
court regarding anyone arrested due to the nature of “national security.”
Imprisonment is indefinite and there would be no right to an attorney. 
Parts of this order was later revoked by the Supreme Court.
Bush administration authorized other measures threatening and attacking the
civil liberties of all US citizens through the USA PATRIOT ACT of 2001. For
example are broadened secret surveillance of innocent individuals and groups
through increased phone-tapping, computer-tapping, e-mail- tapping, and the
search and seizure of homes and private property without a legal search warrant
or without knowledge of the individual. The Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) have expanded the use of CARNIVORE, an internet surveillance system on
personal and business computers. 
Bush administration has created a special “no-fly” list of over 1,000
people, maintained by the Transportation Security Administration under the newly
formed Department of Homeland Security. The no-fly list maintains secrecy of the
names, violates civil freedoms, restricts the right to travel and invades
individual privacy. 
Bush administration has launched a flood of unjust immigration programs set to
identify, raid, arrest, detain and deport individuals and entire families. For
example are Operation Tarmac (launched November 2001), which targets
“undocumented.” Airport workers ; the Absconder Apprehension Initiative
(launched by the Department of Justice on January 13), which targets 314,000
i1undocumentedl. persons including approximately 12,000 Filipinos ; the
Aviation Transportation Security Act, which requires U.S. citizenship for
airport baggage screening workers ; the new special registration policy
known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS
(beginning in December 2002), which targets immigrants from a list of 13
countries to immediately report to the INS in person or face being blacklisted
and deported .
well, they have launched the social security “no match” letters campaign in
January of 2002, in which employers are sent letters by the INS prompting them
to immediately without recourse mass fire all employees without proper social
security numbers and identification ; and, the government has also required
all college and university campuses to closely monitor hundreds of thousands of
international students from foreign countries and to report it to the Department
of Homeland Security, through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information
System, or SEVIS, initially due for compliance in January 2003 . After the
September 11 terrorist attacks, specifically from October 2001 to April 2002 or
within 7 months, a total of 76, 861 immigrants had been deported from the US.
Bush administration has implemented new detention procedures for the INS
(Immigration and Naturalization Services) to allow “indefinite” detention of
immigrants, without the right to a lawyer, without the right of notifying their
families, without the right to a public court arraignment, without the writ of
habeas corpus and without the right to have knowledge of what they are being
accused of or the evidence being used against them. These are violations of
fundamental human and civil rights of innocent people. 
policies are based on racial profiling and discrimination. They target hundreds
and thousands of innocent persons, disrupting their families, communities,
cultures and ways of life. They are a result of historical and systematized
racism and discrimination, which treats “whites” differently than
people-of-color. For example, after the Oklahoma bombing by a white person, no
whites were required to have special registration and report-in to the
government. The new policies do more to encourage public fear then they do to
stop real terrorism. This is exactly what the Bush administration wants in order
to further its political and economic agenda.
the new policies are enforced by state police and military that are themselves
perpetrators of state-sponsored terrorist activities and violators of human
rights through killings of non-combatant civilians.
of innocent people from September 11, 2002 to December 31, 2002 have been
victims of these recent laws. And, the number is increasing daily. Many of them
are still languishing in jail and detention centers. The Homeland Security Act
(2002) will abolish the existing INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services)
and transfer INS functions to the newly created Department of Homeland Security.
Immigration service functions will be placed under a Bureau of Citizenship and
Immigration Services. This places immigrant services under a more militarized
bureaucracy. Border Security, formerly under the INS functions, is now also a
separate Bureau under the Department of Homeland Security.  Beyond the
“war,” the Bush administration is using the current atmosphere of fear and
war for political capital in order to push through other laws and policies that
have “nothing to do with the war on terrorism.” They seek to eliminate and
neutralize all protest and criticism in all areas of legislation, policies and
actions, which are against the people’s basic interests, but for the Bush
Administration’s special interests.
example, attached to the Homeland Security Bill was an “exemption” clause
that exempted Ely Lilly, a pharmaceutical/bio-tech corporation, from being sued
for having toxic levels of thimerasol (mercury-base) which may cause autism in
children. This has “nothing to do with homeland security” and everything to
do with Bush protecting his campaign fund donors.  The military industrial
complex, the prison industry complex, the biotech and pharmaceutical industries,
the agro-chemical industry, the petroleum industry and the high-tech information
technology industry, are among the most lucrative industries that thrive on the
Bush doctrine of U.S. globalization and war.
who have benefited the most from the Bush “war on terrorism” are the
financiers and multi-national corporate interests that supported the Bush-led
politicians and their bid for power in the last “elections.” Those who
supported the Bush administration are lining-up legislation, policies and
backroom deals to be awarded sweetheart contracts, public works projects,
government positions and other political favors.
people-of-color, women, children, immigrants, indigenous nations,
working class families and even the middle class suffer the most in the U.S. The
people are working for less and living on less. Relative wages and income have
decreased tantamount to the increasing profits of big capitalists…
migration and the “War Against Terrorism”
family members and kababayan in the Philippines are experiencing
intensified economic hardship, pain, and suffering due to Bush’s
“international war against terrorism” and the doctrine of war, globalization
and domination. For this
reason, more and more Filipinos migrate abroad in search of jobs and livelihood
for themselves and their families.
2002, approximately 2,383 Filipinos left the Philippines everyday as
overseas workers.  There are currently over 8 million Filipinos living and
working abroad in over 182 countries. This is equivalent to approximately 12% of
the entire Philippine population. The Philippines is notorious as the number one
country that exports human labor in the world. 
“international war against terrorism” puts Filipino migrants who are working
and living in Middle Eastern countries at risk of death from U.S. bombardment
are approximately 1.4 million Filipinos who work in 11 Middle East countries.
The biggest number is in Saudi Arabia which hosts 750,000, or 74.6 percent of
the total. The United Arab Emirates has 103,782 Filipino workers or 10.9
percent; Kuwait, 35,000 or 3.4 percent; Qatar, 32,000 or 3.1 percent; the
Sultanate of Oman, 24,834 or 2.4 percent; Bahrain, 21,000 or 2 percent; Lebanon,
16,495 or 1.6 percent; Libya, 12,000 or 1.1 percent; Israel, 9,439; Iran, 500
and Iraq, 77. (Sept. 2001) They work as domestic workers, construction workers,
engineers, international seamen and other jobs. 
Filipino migration goes hand in hand with the design of globalization. Under
globalization, migrant workers become “internationally shared human
resources,” or better known as cheap, movable, and dispensable human labor.
Migrant workers are more vulnerable to discrimination, racism and exploitation
in foreign host countries by foreign employers and foreign governments.
migrating abroad and sending remittances back home, migrant Filipinos keep the
Philippine economy afloat and just from falling into complete collapse. That is
why overseas Filipino workers are known as the “modern day heroes” of the
Philippines. Without them, the Philippines would fall into ruin.
Filipinos remit $7-8 billion dollars annually back to the Philippines every
year.  This represents approximately 50% of the entire Philippine national
budget, which stands at P804 billion (US$15 billion) for 2003. 
Approximately 56% or more of these remittances come from Filipinos in the U.S.
 These remittances only represent money going through official bank
channels. There is much more money going back through informal family networks
and “out-of-bank channels.
Philippine government further exploits migrant overseas workers through the
“commodification” of migration. The government makes millions of pesos
annually by charging migrants exorbitant fees for visas, papers, documents,
overseas welfare funds and other processing fees. Most of this money is pocketed
through graft and corruption; and, the overseas workers never see the benefit of
these programs. 
migrants are victims of torture, rape, murder and other atrocities, aside from
the exploitation of their labor. The rape of Sarah Balabagan, the death of Flor
Contemplacion and other women victims in recent history are testimonies to the
ongoing problem. Six dead in a box come home to the Philippines everyday.
 Filipino migrants face other ills of the society in their host countries
such as racism, discrimination, loneliness, separation from their families,
unfamiliarity with laws and customs, and violations of their international human
is the situation in the U.S., where the Bush administration’s current
targeting of immigrants for arrest, interrogation, jailing and inhumane
deportation is out of control. The Philippine government has mostly been inutile
and indecisive in protecting the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants abroad.
For example, they laid silent at the outset of the mass lay-offs of Filipino
airport screeners. They do not speak a word about protections for the hundreds
of thousands of “undocumented” Filipinos in the U.S., nor about the denial
of their human right to work in order to live. The root cause of Filipino
migration to the U.S. and abroad is the internal socio-economic crisis of the
Philippines. Filipino migration in general can be characterized as a chronic
phenomenon that has intensified over the last 100 years. Filipino migration to
the U.S. has practically doubled every decade. Although Filipino immigration to
the U.S perceptually comes in “waves” due to changes in U.S. immigration
law, Filipino migration from the Philippines abroad is steadily increasing. Two
million Filipinos arrived in the U.S. in the decade from 1990 to 2000 alone.
community profile in the United States
combination of workers and immigrants represents the widest and broadest aspects
of our Filipino community in the U.S. They are the most vulnerable and
exploited. At the same time, they are the most powerful when organized.
Filipino community in the U.S. is primarily an immigrant population. Immigrants
make up approximately 70-75% of the Filipino community.  Immigrants may be
defined to include green card
holders, visa holders, legal permanent residents (LPRs), “non-immigrants”
(those with temporary visas), the undocumented and even naturalized U.S.
citizens who were originally born in the Philippines.
25-30% of the Filipino community in the U.S. are “Fil-Ams,” or born in the
U.S.  The migrant population has always outnumbered the U.S.-born birth rate
of Filipinos and continues to do so due to globalization. For this reason, it is
imperative to defend and advance the rights of immigrants in the U.S. They are
the most vulnerable and numerous part of our community.
Filipinos in the U.S. today number in the hundreds of thousands. However, no one
has a totally accurate count. The population of undocumented Filipinos in the
U.S. is very elusive due to the inability for the government and institutions to
accurately track Filipinos and their moving statuses. Furthermore is the
question of what is included in the undocumented category. The U.S. Immigration
and Naturalization Services (INS) pegs the number at approximately 106,000 in
1996 , while other research institutions peg the undocumented number at
400,000 and even up to 700,000 persons. The numbers range from 5% to 30% of the
Filipino community which can be labeled undocumented.
September 11, 2001, 334 Filipinos were deported between October 2001 to April
2002, a 7-month time period.  The largest single groups of Filipinos ever to
be deported in history at one time were in August 2002, when 63 Filipinos were
chained, deported and treated inhumanely, and in December 2002, when a second
batch of 84 Filipinos were deported. Both batches were under the Absconder
Apprehension Initiative Program of the US Department of Justice and Immigration
and Naturalization Services.
workers and their families live in extended family households and multi-
generational households. Many households include multiple families. They do this
in order to cope with the worsening conditions in the U.S. They cannot afford to
live the lifestyle of the “American dream.” Many families are cramped into
single apartment complexes. Households have mixed immigration statuses including
citizens, visa holders and undocumented. Because Filipinos have many persons
under one roof, it is reported that Filipino household incomes in the U.S. are
on the average “upper middle class”; but, this is an illusion, because the
Filipino households are overcrowded compared to the American standard, and as
much as 30- 50% of their income is sent home to the Philippines, which leaves
them with less money to spend inside the U.S.
reunification is a significant need for the community; however, to this day,
there is already a backlog of family-reunification visas, some as far back as
1989. This means there is a minimum 13-year waiting list for a family member to
get a visa to go to the U.S., for some immigration preference categories. 
comprise approximately .05% of the U.S. population. There are Filipinos who are
elected officials in national, state and local positions. However, the
conditions of Filipinos in the U.S. are a largely unrecognized nationally to
U.S.-based policy-makers. But, in many local regions, areas and cities,
Filipinos shape public opinion as well as politics. Filipinos must organize
primarily for a stronger voice centered around a peoples agenda through movement
building and only secondarily around empowerment through electing Filipinos into
U.S. immigration laws already in place are unfair to Filipinos, even before the
“war on terrorism.” For example, the worst set of laws to impact the
Filipino community in recent history were the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform
and Immigrant Responsibility Act, the Personal Responsibility Act of 1997, and
the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996. These acts criminalized Filipinos for being
undocumented and created 10-year bars to reunite with their family members in
the U.S. Presently, hundreds of thousands of Filipino migrants in the U.S. do
not possess the right to work from the U.S. government. This is a violation of
the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights since 1949, which the
U.S. government never signed. For this reason, hundreds of thousands of
Filipinos across the U.S. work in exploitative working conditions as
undocumented workers “under-the-table.”
as an ethnic group, function in the socio-economic system as a source of cheap
immigrant labor for U.S. corporations. This can most easily be seen in the
healthcare and nursing industry. Filipino workers are also very numerous in the
hotel and tourism industry, domestic service industry, retail and distribution
jobs, as well as factory, warehouse and assembly-manufacturing jobs. In
addition, thousands of Filipino maritime seamen dock at U.S. ports every year.
Many of them on B-1 visas jump ship and become undocumented.
the combination of workers and immigrants represents the widest and broadest
aspects of our Filipino community that are the most vulnerable and exploited.
The sectors/groups including women, children and
gay/lesbian/bi/transgender/queer/questioning have intensified aspects of
exploitation and oppression in U.S. society. Together, these are the most
powerful sectors of our community when organized.
Re-posted by Bulatlat.com
is the executive director of the California-based Filipino Community Support
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