Jersey City Filipinos hold forum on Trump’s policies, extends solidarity to Muslims, refugees

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More than 50 community members attended a town hall forum last Sunday at the Philippine Community Center in Jersey City, aimed at tackling the impacts of the Trump administration on the Filipino community.  The town hall forum was held a couple of days after Donald Trump signed a series of anti-immigrant executive orders.

“The recent executive orders by Trump are an attack on all immigrants.  The past few days have further shown the gravity of the threat that all migrant and immigrant communities are facing.  It is in that context that we call on the Filipino community to come together, take a stand and link arms with other vulnerable communities to fight against what we believe is a rising fascist state,” said Nick Cordero, chairperson of Migrante New Jersey, a Filipino immigrant workers organization, in his opening remarks to the town hall forum.

President of the Philippine-American New Jersey Jaycees, Maricar Taino, said “It is important because it is when we, as a community with leaders and fellow Filipinos come closer together, unified, informed, engaged, equip and support one another of concerns and issues and committing for a sustainable solutions and development.”

The town hall forum tackled the impacts on health, reproductive rights, public education and immigration.

Atty. Cristina Godinez of the the Migrant Center at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi spoke about Donald Trump’s controversial executive orders.  “The 2 EOs are just the beginning. They are un-American not just because they go against the proud history of the US as a nation of immigrants. These EOs pose a national security risk because they drive the undocumented deeper into the shadows. Non-citizens who had or will have any encounter with law enforcement -no matter how minor- are at risk. The EO’s language is so broad that this Trump dragnet will potentially capture TNTs, those who are here as tourists, students or temporary workers, and even green card holders – most of whom are peaceful, productive members of our communities,” said Godinez.  

Godinez also discussed the possible impact on the Filipino community. “The chilling effect on the Filipino American community will be palpable because among those who will be affected will be someone’s parent, child, spouse, friend or neighbor. We need to prepare and strengthen our local communities now,” Godinez ended.

After the presentations, community members broke out into discussion groups to further air their concerns and to brainstorm concrete actions that the Filipino community can take. The community concluded to work together in protecting and advancing immigrant rights and advocating for the interests of the Filipino community.

Participants then transitioned to a candlelight vigil in solidarity with those affected by the temporary ban on refugees and immigrants from the seven countries covered by Trump’s executive order. Participants held signs saying “No bans! No Walls! Filipinos stand in solidarity with Muslims and refugees” and “End forced migration, no to deportations now!” Participants also delivered speeches.

One of the participants is Ren Clacer, a member of the New Jersey Filipina Women’s Organizing Committee. “It isn’t just Trump’s disgusting treatment of women that alarms us. It is his regime’s continuation and intensification of unjust policies towards immigrants, the poor, people of color, and other marginalized groups – further oppressing people who are victims of US policies in their homelands. When we defend people’s rights, we defend women’s rights. We call Filipinos around the US to unite and organize against rising fascism and attacks on jobs, education, healthcare and other social services,” said Clacer.

Council President Rolando Lavarro also gave a message to the community. “As he did on the campaign, Trump continues to appeal to the worst in us, sowing fear and divisiveness.  Trump’s executive orders unfairly target Muslims, and are an affront to Jersey City and our incredibly diverse community. We will resist and fight the hatred bigotry coming out of DC. We will stand with and protect our immigrant family in Jersey City and throughout the nation.”

Anakbayan New Jersey Chairperson, Ruthie Arroyo concluded the vigil with a challenge to the Filipino youth to get involved. “Filipino youth must be critical and play close attention to the Trump administration that is spearheading aggressive cuts to funding and access to education, our healthcare system, all while military spending to wage wars abroad will sharply increase.  We must also take the next step as people who are inheriting the future and this worsening global economic crisis to fight for our rights by arousing, organizing, and mobilizing our communities.  Join organizations like Anakbayan to defend the rights of Filipinos and all marginalized people.”

The town hall forum and candlelight vigil was organized by Anakbayan New Jersey, Migrante New Jersey, Filipina Women’s Organizing Committee, Philippine American New Jersey Jaycees and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.

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