Jersey City, NJ – Migrante New Jersey, a Jersey City based Filipino immigrant and workers’ rights organization, held a free legal clinic on immigration this past Sunday, November 20, at Pope Hall, Saint Peter’s University in response to what the organizers called “climate of fear and uncertainty” caused by the recent election to the presidency by Donald Trump.
The legal clinic was attended by a couple of dozen community members all seeking legal consultation on various immigration issues. Migrante New Jersey members discussed what to expect under the Trump administration and what the community can do to prepare. “According to Trump he will immediately terminate President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. He also mentioned about immediately deporting two million undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions,” said Nick Cordero, chairperson of Migrante New Jersey. “These are just some of the anti-immigrant actions that we are anticipating under the Trump administration,” Cordero added.
After the discussion, community members were escorted to their one on one legal consultations. The free legal clinic was done in partnership with The Center for Undocumented Students of Saint Peter’s University, UnLocal and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). This free legal clinic was done in response to what the organizers say as the climate of fear and uncertainty caused by the recent election to the presidency by Donald Trump. “Many are afraid of possible raids, mass deportations as well as increase in hate crimes against immigrants,” said Cordero,
Trump consistently campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform vowing to build the wall between the United States and Mexico as well as banning immigrants from countries “compromised” by terrorism, naming the Philippines as one of them. Meanwhile, the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate crimes, have recorded over 700 hateful incidents and harassment since the elections.
According to Cordero, this free legal clinic is just one of many activities they are planning to defend the immigrant community against possible anti-immigrant policies and legislation under the Trump administration. Cordero also called on the community to get organized, join Migrante NJ and participate in protests. “We will hold more free legal clinics as well as Know Your Rights workshops to ensure that our community is aware of their rights. We will continue organizing our community because the only way we can ensure our safety is by organizing and taking action. If we are organized, we have nothing to fear,” said Cordero.
Migrante New Jersey also continues to call on local governments to implement or reaffirm their sanctuary city status as well as immediately pass ordinances to further protect vulnerable communities, such as municipal ID.
For Filipinos who have concerns about their immigration status, are detained or are under deportation, they can contact Migrante New Jersey at (201) 898-5661 or by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Migrante New Jersey is a local chapter of Migrante International is an international alliance of Filipino migrants organizations. It aims to educate, organize and mobilize Filipino im/migrants and their families to protect and advance their rights both here in the United States as well as back home in the Philippines. For more information, visit www.migrantenj.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 natayo 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
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.
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.
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.