March 2, 2021
Jersey City, NJ – New Jersey Filipinos held an online town hall meeting to discuss the Filipino-American Agenda last February 28. The town hall was attended by more than 30 participants from 15 Filipino organizations representing immigrant workers, women, students, young professionals and many more. The Agenda is a list of demands addressing the needs and concerns of Filipinos in the United States.
The New Jersey town hall is part of a nationwide effort initiated by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) alongside the Filipino-American youth and student alliance Kabataan Alliance to develop the Filipino-American Agenda. They aim to build unity within the Filipino community along common concerns and advocacies and will send the Agenda to the Biden-Harris administration within its first 100 days.
The town hall featured Councilman-at-Large, Rolando Lavarro, and Executive Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ), Amy Torres. Lavarro spoke about housing issues in Jersey City. While Torres spoke about immigration issues in the state. Both issues were identified as a major concern for the Filipino community in New Jersey.
“There is an affordable housing crisis that threatens to push out Jersey City’s working families of all backgrounds, but especially Black and Brown people, including Filipinos, immigrant communities, and the most vulnerable. We are not afforded the same respect and dignity that politicians give other communities. We need to ask ourselves what our city would look like if it made housing for the poor and working families a priority? What would our city look like if we cultivate jobs for our working class?” shared Councilman Lavarro on the housing issue.
Other highlights of the town hall were testimonies from community members. “The year Trump was elected, my application to renew my visa was denied. I felt like I lost my personhood, my dignity and the small freedoms I had just because the state decided not to issue a piece of paper. My needs as a person remain the same even when I became out of status,” said Anne, a member of Migrante New Jersey, on her experience as an undocumented immigrant. “Equal opportunity for all, especially for basic needs just like IDs and healthcare must be demanded from our government. This will immediately address the needs of Filipino working class migrants in the U.S,” she concluded.
“I am worried about the minimum wage. Currently, it’s just not enough. It also ties to harsh and unsafe workplaces caused by understaffing. We are working faster. Working more. We are overworked and underpaid. During the pandemic, as essential workers, we are putting ourselves on the line to ensure that businesses and the economy keeps moving while the state and our employer neglects the health and safety of workers like us,” said Matthew, a fast food worker who shared their testimony. “We need higher wages and stronger protection for workers rights to organize.” He concluded.
The Filipino-American Agenda includes sections on workers’ and economic rights, immigrant rights, and the demands of youth and students, women, LGBTQ+ community, educators, and small businesses.
The Agenda also includes a section on foreign policy regarding US-Philippines relations. “The human rights crisis in the Philippines is a Filipino American issue. The power is in our hands to demand from our elected officials that they use our US tax dollars to address the needs of our communities here in New Jersey, and not to line the pockets of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, the murderous dictator. We need to get our representatives and senators to support the Philippine Human Rights Act, which aims to suspend US military aid going toward Duterte’s grave human rights violations,” said Bernadette, a member of the Malaya Movement New Jersey.
After the testimonies, participants broke out into discussion groups to provide input and add on to the Filipino-American Agenda. Community participants and organizations resolved to support the Filipino-American Agenda, as well as continue working towards the promotion and realization of its demands through political advocacy. They also resolved to unite various Filipino organizations and the broader Filipino community in New Jersey around the Agenda’s goals.
A National Townhall is set to be held on March 21 to finalize the Agenda. NAFCON and Kabataan Alliance aim to ensure that the voices and concerns of the Filipino community in the United States are heard from the grassroots to the federal government. ###
To see the current draft of the Filipino-American Agenda, you can visit www.nafconusa.org.