Cecil Delgado: Why I joined Migrante New Jersey

This speech was deliver at the launching of Migrante New Jersey, Pope Lecture Hall, Saint Peter’s University, October 2, 2016. 

Good afternoon everyone, magandang tanghali po sa inyong lahat.

Ako po si Cecil Delgado, a mother of a fourteen year old young man, a migrant worker and a part of Florida 15, a human trafficking survivor.

A week ago, I was asked by Yves Nibungco to first share our story for the nth time and second, why I decided to be a part of Migrante NJ. And just like the old times, I was hesitant to do this. I don’t know if I’m scared that I may say things that people wouldn’t understand or maybe I’m scared that i may fail to deliver the message. But then I remember, it was around 2007, in front of 10 corporate officers and almost 200 crew members from different countries, when I put my employment at risk, by standing up, asking questions and speaking for others. I decided to stand up and throw questions to those [corporate] officers, for those 200 crew members who didn’t have the courage to speak for themselves. Questions that I never thought would be their reason to send me home, questions that I never thought would be their reason to end my career as a Seafarer.

29817_1394351989872_3361812_n.jpg

The company decided to send me home because they said that I was a threat. Ako daw po ay isang banta, that I am an activist. At first, I wasn’t sure about that, but I was sure of one thing. That I stood up and fought for what I know was right! I may not be a radical activist, but I know, I am an activist by heart.

And that is the reason why I am standing in front of you. Because I don’t know if by telling my story or our story, I would be able to inspire and encourage others to come out and expose themselves and seek justice. I’m hoping that by sharing a brief summary of our story, people will be inspired and encouraged, just as how Leticia Moratal and Jackie Aguirre’s story inspired us. For nothing is more powerful than a real testimony of a survivor from being a victim.

As I was saying, aside from working in different hotels and high-end restaurants in the Philippines, I was a seafarer before. I ventured in sea-based employment because aside from earning Euros, I also get to visit different countries. Unfortunately, that journey ended after four years.

I was looking for an employment opportunity, when a friend of mine encouraged me to apply to an agency in Manila. After only a month of processing, I was hired to work as a waitress. March 2008 when I first set my feet in Miami, Florida. In short, it was 2008, when I migrated.

I personally decided to migrate simply because and what everybody says “we want a better future for our family,” a future that my country doesn’t offer and a future that you can’t find in the Philippines.

My intention was only to work, earn and save, but I ended up being a human trafficking victim or a victim of unfair labor practices. I personally couldn’t believe that I can be a victim of such a thing, because when I was applying for the job, everything seemed legit, fair and legal. Complete trainings, paper works, and documents from the United States were handed to me. I also didn’t know that labor “trafficking” word has ever existed.

It was only after three years when I resigned as an Executive Assistant of Jose Villanueva, a Filipino employer who owned SanVilla Ship, who took us from the Philippines and brought here, that human trafficking is really happening here in the United States. Because before, whenever I hear “human trafficking,” I always thought about “sex slaves,” hindi po pala. I was wrong.

I personally never worked as a full time waitress. Rather, I worked as a 24/7 Executive Assistant, and being his Executive Assistant, I would say, I witnessed everything – payroll discrepancies, tax fraud, visa fraud, forced labor, unauthorized deductions, etc. I was also forced to multi task and maximize my time to minimize my loads. I was working 60 to 70 hours/wk, no overtime pay, I was paid less, managing almost a hundred employees and attending to their needs, meeting clients here and there, scouting, driving, payroll, etc. You name it all! I did it all by myself.

f15forum21.jpg
A community forum on Labor Trafficking at Saint Peter’s University

That’s why, it was easy for me to seek Atty. Vinluan’s advice through the endorsement of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), and he validated that our employer violated so much of my rights and that I was a human trafficking victim together with fourteen others. Our case ran from 2011 to 2014, and the government has only helped us once. We never got any legal assistance from them for our lawyer. They gave us $300 each as their initial help for their citizens in distress and I’m telling you, that was the last too. They even tried to get rid of us by offering us to be sent back to the Philippines in which we all refused.

florida15.jpg
Picket in front of the Philippine Consulate in New York

2011 when we filed our case against our former employer. February 2013 when we received our T-visas and employment cards. 2014 when we started filing the petition for our families. 2015 when some of the F15 members got reunited with their families. And just last September 2015, I got reunited with my son. A son that I did not see in almost 7 years; a son that I did not see playing basketball or soccer, a son that I never see competing in swimming and won medals; a son that was so innocent in anything and is now eminently engage in everything; a son that I begged to have but had to leave.

11200813_10207281674391180_3723572588280590328_n.jpg
Cecil at the airport with her son, Marcus

I couldn’t explain how I felt when I was at the airport, waiting for him to come out, and saw him walking towards me. I wasn’t sure if I was excited or scared. Excited because finally we will be together or scared because he may not recognize me. As he was getting closer, the only thing I felt that I had to do, was to hug and kiss him, because he’s my son anyway. He would feel every beat of my heart. But then I was right, after hours of talking, my son told me, he barely recognized me. He didn’t recognize my face and my hair.

That “honesty” hurt me for a little bit, but it didn’t break me. Reuniting with my son is still the best feeling! My son is my reason why I remained strong. There’s a saying and it goes” A woman became stronger because of the pain she has faced and won”.

Labor export policy separated us but fighting the system brought us back together.

A family member once asked me if working abroad is easy or hard. Some may say easy, some may say hard. But the answer will always depend on one’s current situation. Let’s just say it’s both easy and hard. Easy because you are earning more than what you can earn in your country. Easy because you can buy what you want whenever you want it and easy because you can visit different places and meet new friends along the way. On the other hand, it’s hard because aside from being away from your family for an indefinite period of time, you are at the same time putting your life in danger or putting your future at risk!

Sometimes, a death or loss of a family member, having a broken family and separation of husband and wife are becoming a part of the “unwritten contract” as a migrant worker. Being in another country is always a gamble. Almost like playing a card game. Magkamali ka ng balasa, next thing you know, ikaw na ung nasa kahon. Minsan masarap din maging migrante dahil madalas we send balikbayan boxes for our families, pero minsan nakakatakot din, dahil minsan ang migrante na mismo ang laman ng box (One mistake, next thing you know you’re already the one inside the box. Sometimes it also feels good to be a migrant because most of the time we send balikbayan boxes, but sometimes it’s also scary, because sometimes migrants themselves are the ones inside the box). Just like what happened to many of our fellow kababayan in Middle East or different parts of the world.

It gets more difficult from a mother, migrant worker and victim’s point of view, is when you fight your battle without seeing your Government in the equation. These government representatives always forget the fact that the reason why they are here is to first, protect the migrant workers, to ensure that we are safe, to ensure that we are getting the assistance and help that we may be needing and most importantly, to ensure na tayo po ay makakabalik pa ng buhay sa bansang ating pinanggalingan (that we can return alive in the country where we came from). Migrant workers safety should be their top priority. Sending our ashes back to our country or sending our dead and cold bodies back to our families is the most painful price that migrant workers have to pay most of the times.

Kaya nga po, being a Migrant Worker is not as easy as what are families think. Being a Migrant Worker is as hard as putting yourself into quick sand and waiting for someone to pull you up or push you down. Pains, hardships, sacrifice and sufferings, they are all so real.

f15-atty-v.jpg
Florida 15 and Atty. Felix Vinluan at a press conference after being granted T-visas

We, the Florida 15, would not be where we are now if it were not because of these community organizations and our lawyer who never cease to support us, if it wasn’t because we decided to engage ourselves with them, if it wasn’t because we decided to be united, maybe until now we are still hiding and waiting for nothing. Our collective effort and our decision to put our actions together brought us to where we are now. Brought us to be with our families. Brought us to be free and fearless. Brought us to stand up in front of you and tell you that, you, migrants are not alone. That all Migrants could make a difference and be a part of change!

Everyday, we are facing unseen battles. Don’t step back. Move forward and always think of the basic, that in fighting a battle you either win or lose. What’s important is, you tried and chose to stand up and fight for your rights. And this is why I joined Migrante New Jersey. As long as there are victims, we, the organizations should stand still. As long as there are people that are getting abused, in any other way, we should remain, and when everything gets fixed, we should still watch. And this is what this organization does. Migrante will stay, stand, support, educate, and fight with you. Let’s all contribute, build and mobilize.

14525036_1593140944322754_8434036704140340245_o.jpg
Migrante New Jersey launching at Saint Peter’s University

To all the Migrant Workers out there, times have molded us. We have had enough pain and sufferings. This is the time that we need to put our actions together. This may not be an easy path, but things always get better if we are all together.

Muli, ako po si Cecil Delgado, a Mother, a survivor, and a Migrant Worker!
Ang migranteng militante in rising!
Marami pong salamat at mabuhay ang migranteng manggagawa! (Thank you and long live migrant workers!)

 

Cecil Delgado is currently the Deputy Secretary General of Migrante New Jersey.

 

Free Legal Consultation on Immigration

Do you have immigration related questions? Come to Migrante New Jersey’s Free Legal Consultation in partnership with various lawyers.
What: Free legal consultation on immigration
Where: Pope Lecture Hall, 155 Glenwood Ave. Jersey City, NJ 07306
When: Sunday, November 20, 2016
Time: 3pm to 6pm (registration starts at 2:30pm)
 
– Bring all documents relevant to your question
– Make sure to register  by calling 917.476.7855 or by emailing us at migrantenj@gmail.com
 
The free legal consultation will be followed by Migrante New Jersey’s General Meeting. Stick around to learn how you can get involved.
 
Co-sponsored by:
The Center for Undocumented Students
 
For more information, please email us at migrantenj@gmail.com

#SaveLordesNow Campaign Meeting

We are inviting the community and immigrant, LGBTQ and human rights advocates to come together and take a stand in support of Lordes.

Lordes is a 32-year-old Filipina Trans woman currently detained in a male dorm Elizabeth Detention Center and is facing deportation!

What: Campaign Meeting
When: October 11, Tuesday, 6pm-8pm
Where: We Are One NJ, 830 Bergen Ave. Suite 4A, Jersey City, NJ 07306″

Migrante launches new chapter in New Jersey

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Jersey City – Trafficking survivors, immigrant workers and activists announced the formation of Migrante New Jersey at the formal launching at Saint Peter’s University last Sunday, October 2. The launching was themed “Bangon Migrante!” or Rise-up Migrants! The event was attended by close to a hundred allies, community members and family members.

Yves Nibungco, an organizer with Migrante New Jersey, presented a situationer of Filipino immigrant workers in New Jersey. “Filipino immigrant workers continue to face various injustices in the Garden State. Labor trafficking, wage theft, lack of decent pay and family separation are just a few issues that afflict our kababayans,” said Nibungco. “Wherever there is oppression, there is resistance. Filipino immigrant workers must organize to ensure a bright future for our families,” Nibungco added.

“Death of a family member, having a broken family and separation of husband and wife are becoming a part of the unwritten contract as a Migrant Worker. Being in another country is always a gamble. Almost like playing a card game. Magkamali ka ng balasa, next thing you know ikaw na ung nasa kahon,” said Cecil Delgado, a labor trafficking survivor, in her moving speech on the struggles as a Filipino immigrant worker and as a mother. “Labor export policy separated us, but fighting the system brought us back together.” Delgado said referring to her eventual reunification with her son.

“Our collective effort and our decision to put our actions together brought us to where we are now, to be with our families, to be free and fearless. It has brought us to stand up in front of you and tell you that, you, migrants are not alone. That all Migrants could make a difference and be a part of the change!” said Delgado.

Another highlight of the event was the presentation of Migrante New Jersey’s first set of officers. Nick Cordero as the Chairperson; Michael Aznar as the Vice Chairperson; Doni Manuel as the Secretary General; Cecil Delgado as the Deputy Secretary General; Yancy Gandionco as the Education Officer, Mars Escobido as the Finance Officer and Cris Alda as the Deputy Finance Officer. Statements of support from various Migrante chapters across the United States capped the launching.

History of Migrante New Jersey

Migrante New Jersey was formerly known as the Filipino Immigrants and Workers Organizing Project (FIWOP). It was formed on January of 2015 after a community forum on President Obama’s executive action on immigration. Attendees of the community forum saw the need for an organization of Filipino immigrant workers who will protect and advance the rights and welfare of our kababayans in New Jersey. Since then, FIWOP has organized various activities to educate, organize and mobilize the Filipino community into addressing issues affecting Filipino immigrant workers. On June 24, 2016, FIWOP members decided to change the name of the organization into Migrante New Jersey. Migrante New Jersey is an official chapter of Migrante International, a global alliance of organizations of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their families.

Speech of Eni Lestari Andayani Adi

Chairperson, International Migrant’s Alliance (IMA) 

At Opening Session of UN Summit of Large Movement of Refugees and Migrants
19 September 2016, UN Headquarter, New York City

Your Excellences, UN Secretary General, Presidents of General Assembly and Distinguished Guests,

I am honored to stand before you today on behalf of the 244 million migrants all over the world. After years of being voiceless and invisible, we – the migrants – are finally welcomed here to speak for ourselves.

We are the peoples who have been denied the future, the rights and the dream we used to imagine. When I was young, I dreamt of reaching a higher education and making a contribution to my family and society.

But the worsening crisis affected my family in Indonesia and millions of poor people, where we wake up everyday to a reality of unemployment, lack of chance for education, eroding social services, loss of land and deepening poverty.

Like many others, I did not have choice but to work abroad as migrant domestic worker. So that I could put food on our table, pay off my parent’s debt and bring my siblings to school.

However, the reality of migration speaks otherwise. For the majority of us, the promise of a better future is a lie. We are trapped into debt bondage, trafficked or tricked into slavery, our basic rights denied, vulnerable to abuses, many disappeared and even died.

Our dream has become a nightmare. A nightmare driven by a system that creates profits for those is migration business and allows companies to push down wages. Our future is bleak.

We expect protection and services but we are left alone to deal with our sufferings. We are alone in a system that does not value the rights and dignity of migrants, does not recognize us as workers or people – but merely cheap labour or commodities.

Our vulnerability is exploited. Moreover, the policies on migration reinforce our invisibility. We are perceived as security threats, yet we are transformed into an industry that generates billions in remittance that some governments talk as development opportunity.

In our experience, no matter how much we sacrifice, migration does not guarantee development that can enable us to go home with a decent life. No matter how hard we work, we are never recognized as workers and humans with dignity and equality.

Do we wish to be vulnerable? No. We wish to be seen and heard; not marginalized and excluded. We wish respect to our humanity. Migrants in different part of the world are collectively struggling and organizing to make our dreams come true.

I speak before you today with a clear message. Do not talk about us without us. We have answers and we have been voicing them. Listen and talk with us about migration, development and human rights. International conventions designed to protect us have been ratified. But they remain in a paper and not in action.

You want us to remit but what we need is for you to commit – to justice, to a development that does not tear families apart and to a future that relies on the strength of its people, not to the continued export and exploitation of our labour.

In two years, you are set to forge a global compact for us. Let’s make it real and actionable. Frame it as rights-based and make sure its implementation will lessen displacement or forced migration, resolves conflict and the root causes of poverty.

Let’s work for a world without vulnerability, insecurity or invisibility. As people, as workers, as women, as migrants – we are ready to make this happen. Work with us.

Thank you. Terima kasih.

#MigrantSpeakUN

Bangon Migrante! Migrante New Jersey Community Launching

We would like to invite you and your organization to our public launching on Sunday, October 2 at Pope Lecture Hall – Saint Peter’s University. This public launching aims to formally introduce our organization to the community.
 
Our theme for our launching is “Bangon Migrante!” which means “Migrants Stand Up/Rise Up!”. This is a call to action to all our fellow im/migrant worker to rise up and stand up for their rights and welfare. This also describes the formation of Migrante New Jersey as an act of Filipino im/migrants in New Jersey standing up.
In this community launching, we will be introducing our organization, our newly elected Executive Committee and our upcoming projects. We will also be giving a presentation about the current situation of Filipino immigrant workers in New Jersey.
  • Community Launching of Migrante New Jersey
  • Sunday, October 2, 2016
  • 3:00pm to 6:00pm
  • Pope Lecture Hall – Saint Peter’s University, 2641 John F. Kennedy Blvd, Jersey City, NJ 07306 (see directions here)
It would mean so much to us if you and your organization can attend and share this momentous event with our members and community. Please RSVP by emailing us here at migrantenj@gmail.com
 
Thank you and looking forward to your response. 
 
In solidarity,
Nicholas Cordero, Chairperson
 
Romuald Manuel, Secretary General

Fight for $15 and Wage Theft Workshop

Kami ay nananawagan sa aming kapwa manggagawa na makilahok sa ating kampanya upang ipaglaban ang sahod na nakabubuhay at ipagtanggol ang ating mga sarili laban sa pagnanakaw ng sahod. Magkakaroon tayo ng talakayan tungkol sa kampanya para sa $15. Magkakaroon din tayo ng talakayan tungkol sa wage theft, isang problemang kinakaharap ng maraming mga Pilipinong manggagawa. Pagkatapos ng talakayan, ito ay susundan ng general meeting ng Migrante New Jersey.

RSVP here

Migrante NJ Invites you to annual Salu-Salo

Migrante New Jersey and Anakbayan New jersey invites you to our annual ‘salu-salo’, a community picnic and family day.

Salu-salo’ means a gathering or a banquet in Filipino. Come join us as we get together for a nice afternoon at the Bayonne park and build community. There will be food, fun, Filipino games and lots new friends.

CLICK “GOING” TO CONFIRM ATTENDANCE

What: Community Picnic & Family Day
When: September 4, Sunday
Time: 12pm to 6pm
Where: Bayonne Park, Kennedy Blvd. & 46th St. (take Bus 10 or 119 to Bayonne from Journal Square)
Who: Everyone

*Everyone is encouraged to brush up on your Filipino games and to bring food and drinks to share

Migrante New Jersey holds Know Your Rights workshop

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Migrante New Jersey holds a Know Your Rights workshop this past Sunday at the Social Justice House at Saint Peter’s University. This workshop was in partnership with Atty. Cristina Godinez of The Migrant Center of St. Francis of Assisi Church

The workshop tackled the basic rights of immigrants and how they can protect them. Atty. Godinez broke down the how undocumented immigrants can assert their rights at home, at the workplace, in public, in transit and at the border.

This workshop was conducted in line with Migrante New Jersey’s mission of protecting and advancing the rights and welfare of Filipino im/migrant workers and their families here in New Jersey.

Migrante New Jersey members stressed that it is by joining organizations like Migrante and collectively taking action through campaigns can we effectively protect and advance the rights of all immigrants.

Migrante New Jersey will be holding more workshops and various topics in the future such as workers rights, health, labor trafficking and more.

13690902_1566094977027351_7441145620489596795_o

#MayDay2016: Rally and March

The Filipino Immigrants & Workers Organizing Project calls on our kababayans to come and join us on May Day as we march for living wage, family reunification and legalization for all. We will be marching with Anakbayan New Jersey, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) along with various community organizations.

What: Rally & March
When: May 1, 2016
Time: 12:00pm – onwards

For more information, please email us at filipinoIWOproject@gmail.com