Activists demand protection of Filipino migrant workers and J-1 visa holders

WASHINGTON DC — With social distancing in mind, these Fil-Am activists together with some of the frontline medical workers took to the streets in Washington D.C. to demand for the protection of Filipino migrant workers.

“Mga kasama, let us keep our solidarity to empower all the frontliners and all the workers  — mabuhay ang uring manggagawa mabuhay!”

Protesters also called for assistance to hundreds of Filipinos terminated from J-1 visa programs — a temporary non-immigrant visa issued by the U.S. embassy and the Dept. of State for individuals who participate in work and study exchange visitor programs.

“Pero ang nagyari sila a nilioko, sila ay ginawang manggawa, mga hotel workers… ang mag trabaho nila naghuhugaw ng pinggan, naglilinis sa hotel at kung ano ano pam napakababa ng sahod, tapos ngayon ay binitawan na sila ng embassy,” said Bernadette Herrera, National Chair of Migrante USA.

“But what happens is that they end up getting duped, they end up working as hotel workers who wash dishes, clean the hotel for little pay. And then now, the embassy has let go of them.”

Elaine Amador, a former J-1 visa holder who is now fighting removal proceedings said that problems with the exchange visitor program existed even before the pandemic.

“We paid for $5k for while year program, and I was given the position of server, server including dishwasher with wages ranging from $4.86 an hour to $8. These wages are not the same with the agreement we signed.”

But after complaining and requesting to be transferred to another J-1 program provider, Amador said, she got threats instead of answers.

“The employer threatened us of deportation, if we will not finish the program, and they want to extend us a tourist extension for another 6 months and we have to pay for it. We couldn’t take the lies and mistreatment any longer so we decided to leave.”

Amador applied for a trafficking, or t-visa, but it was denied — so she’s currently fighting removal proceedings.

“I feel so hopeless and powerless with everything that has happened to me, everywhere I turn I have been met with deception and disappointment, now I’m facing imminent deportation for things that were not my fault.”

“I’m also here for the J1 Visa Holders, who are experiencing work place exploitation, no protections whatsoever and even the seafarers in different cruise ships who were around a lot of Covid positive and receive no protection,” says Jhong Delacruz.

J-1 visa is not an employment program and does not provide a pathway to permanent residency.

But protesters said these Filipinos still deserve some assistance.

“We demand our visa sponsors and recruitment agency. Take care of the well-being of J1 workers. Provide a full refund for our program fee. Provide damage compensation. Stop the harassment of J1 workers and their relatives in Philippines for payments,” said Brittany Tabora.

Protesters said that J-1 visa holders are also asking for the same help from the U.S. government to provide them the assistance they need as they go through tough economic times during the coronavirus pandemic.

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    6 May 2020 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    To all J-1 visa holders, TRUMP declares NATIONAL EMERGENCY, due to COVID 19, it also cancels J-1 visa holders, works permit for foreign students, withholds stimulus checks for children of an illegal alien, work permits for DACA, frozen the arrival of Pinoy immigrants who were petitioned by their parents. This will win VOTES for TRUMP, it protects US Voters, America First Policy. Only US citizens can vote, Green Cardholder is a legal immigrant, they can not vote. This Cancellation of work permit, in my opinion, will be lifted AFTER the November Presidential election or never. If TRUMP will lift it before the Election US Voters will get angry, they will vote for him. Angry because of many competitors when applying for a job.