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Archive for the ‘immigration’ Category

(Late reflections for Mother’s Day)

Of all the made-up commercial holidays, Mother’s Day, for me, is the least irritating. After all, if I was going to be guilted into blowing money on cards, flowers, and the obligatory brunch, at least it was going to be for Mom. So to moms everywhere, y’all rock.

And this goes double for the moms we do not celebrate on Mother’s Day — the ones  who get painted as fiscally and sexually irresponsible, the deviant  mothers who are subjected to discipline and sanction.

For decades, the deviant mother has served as a convenient scapegoat for state ills. As Anna  Marie Smith has observed, “the State lays the blame for poverty at the door of the deviant mother who is ideologically constructed as black, heterosexual, unmarried, and sexually precocious.” These are the mothers who are somehow painted as undeserving.

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As we celebrated the eve of November 4th, I was struck by a comment from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He pointed out with pride the role of the Latino vote in Obama’s election. I wish I could say that about my fellow Filipinos.

And yes, I know, the Filipino vote is not monolithic. I am specifically talking about Filipinos like me, who have immigrated here in our adult lives. We’re working to make ends meet. Many of you are raising families, go to church every Sunday, support extended families back in the Philippines. The Philippines that would theoretically be a very red state if it could vote.

So yeah, there are lots of factors behind this particular Pinoy demographic’s support of McCain and Proposition 8, but I will dive into the one that presents the most challenges.

Filipinos can be quite forthcoming when talking about race. In news interviews in the Philippines and in Pinoy gatherings, many immigrant Pinoys have made it abundantly clear that their “discomfort” over Barack Obama is not due to the rumors that he’s an inexperienced, socialist, Muslim politician. Their discomfort is from Obama’s blackness.

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Juana Tejada, the Filipina caregiver who was being deported this August from Canada due to her cancer, has been granted an extension on her temporary work permit. She can stay until December 10, as the authorities continue to assess her case.

Ms. Tejada began working in Canada in 2003, via the Canada’s Live-In Caregiver program. She was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2006, during a medical examination for her permanent residency. Canadian authorities then denied her application, stating that she would cause “excessive demand” on the country’s health resources.

The Canadian authorities have since reconsidered, due to outrage from Filipino community groups headed by Migrante Ontario, the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, and by workers’ groups including the Independent Workers Association and the United Steelworkers Union.

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It’s no small task to be a bicyclist or pedestrian in Los Angeles. Motorists don’t expect you. Many get angry when they’re inconvenienced and have to brake.

Last July 4th, Christopher Thompson of Brentwood, an emergency room physician, deliberately swerved his car onto the path of two cyclists, then slammed on his brakes. One cyclist crashed head-first through Thomson’s car window; the other was flung to the pavement. Both sustained serious injuries. The doctor now faces felony charges, thanks in large part to the actions of bicycling activists.

Road rage assaults are the reason why I’d much rather run the trails, where you only have to worry about coyotes, pumas, and rattlesnakes.

But there’s a whole group of Los Angeles bicyclists who do not have that choice or privilege. They don’t ride for recreation or exercise. They ride those heavy no-name bikes from Walmart. They can’t afford helmets, reflectors, or other safety gear.

They are day laborers, immigrants, people of color for whom bicycles are an expensive necessity, the only way to get to work.

They’re called the invisible riders.

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Please read professor black woman’s post about the continued exploitation of migrant farmworkers in California, then sign the UFW petition for farm workers’ rights.

For my fellow Pinoys, please remember that in 1965, led by Larry Itliong, Philip Vera-Cruz, and Pete Velasco, 1,500 Filipino farm workers went on strike in Delano, California. The agribusinesses responded by sending goons to beat the strikers, and by turning off the gas, electricity, and water in the labor camps. When the agribusinesses brought in Mexican laborers as replacements, Itliong turned to the Mexican National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), headed by Cesar Chavez.

Itliong’s group, the Filipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) and Chavez’s NFWA later merged to form the United Farm Workers of America.

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We have an image of human traffickers and slavers as a sleazy bunch operating in “uncivilized” regions of the world. But traffickers can also look like former ambassadors who live in swanky townhomes in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

This report details the story of Lauro Liboon Baja Jr., who along with his wife and daughter, are charged with trafficking, forced labor, peonage and racketeering. In exchange for a $4,000 fee, the Bajas promised Marichu Suarez Baoanan a position as a “personal employee,” travel and visa assistance, and help with finding Baoanan a nursing job in the US.

Instead, Baoanan was forced to work sixteen-hour days as a domestic servant in the five-story Upper East Side townhouse that served as the consular residence and office for the Philippine Mission to the UN. She worked seven days a week, was made to sleep in the cold basement with only a blanket for warmth, and was subject to verbal abuse whenever she asked about the promised nursing job.

Sadly, Baoanan’s case is not uncommon.

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After posting this entry on domestic workers, I learned of the case of Juana Tejada, a Filipina caregiver working under the Canadian federal Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP). She came to Canada in 2003, fulfilled the LCP’s stringent requirements, and was applying for permanent residency in 2006, when she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

She appealed to Canadian immigration officials to waive the health requirement for humanitarian reasons and was told the following:

“While I am sympathetic to your situation, I am not satisfied that these circumstances justify granting an exemption,” a case processing officer in Alberta wrote in the latest decision. “In the opinion of a medical officer, this health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health and social services.”

Tejada’s dying wish is is to stay in Canada and to bring her family, a right she earned and would have availed of in 2006, had she not had the misfortune of getting cancer.

Tejada’s words:

“I have paid my dues to earn my permanent residency. I have worked hard to try to give my family (her husband and six siblings) a better life,” said Tejada, who has been apart from her family since 1995, when she began working abroad as a domestic. “I didn’t want to have cancer. It is not my fault.”

Juana Tejada has until August 8 before she is deported from Canada.

If you are Canadian, please contact your Member of Parliament to support Tejada’s campaign. And please sign the online petition asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reverse the deportation order against Juana Tejada.

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