Filipino community organizations come to the aid of struggling J-1 visa workers

by Paul Garilao, ABS-CBN News

FLORIDA — Across the U.S., Filipino J-1 visa holders have not been spared from economic hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While their visas have not yet expired and their contracts are still valid for over a year, a number of Filipino J-1 visa holders from the Philippines have been laid off by hotels and recreation parks in Orlando.

These J-1 visa holders have the option to return to the Philippines, but many do not want to risk getting infected by the coronavirus. They have yet to save enough money for their flights back home — for now, they have to stay in the U.S. — but they need help.

These interns from Loews hotel decided to launch a GoFundMe to seek financial assistance for their monthly expenses.

“Especially po ngayun,kailangan po talaga namin ng financial assistance. We are not just talking for the rest of us, but we are talking on behalf of all j1 interns na hindi po biro ang pumunta dito sa America.”

“Especially now, we really need financial assistance. We are not just talking for the rest of us, but we are talking on behalf of all J-1 interns that it’s no joke to come here to America.”

Since their monthly expenses are not covered by the hotel and their agency, these Filipino interns have to come up with about $1,700 each per month — which includes rent and utility bills.

Neil Loremia said since money’s been so tight, he hasn’t been able to send money to his parents in the Philippines.

“Nakakatulong po ako sa magulang ko. Nakakasend po ako ng money. Nung dumating po yung buwan ng march, nagstop na po kasi, marami na po sa amin nagsisialisan.”

“I used to be able to help my parents by sending money. Since March, I’ve stopped sending money because of the layoffs.”

Meanwhile, Filipino organizations such as the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and the Kabataan Alliance recently conducted an online conference via Zoom to know the J-1 visas holders’ concerns.

In addition, Filipino families in Orlando have reached out to these workers by sending them food and grocery supplies.

“Some have messaged me, asking if we have food. They said if we want, they can share with us what they’ve cooked. So far, that’s the only help we’ve received, as well as groceries.”

Although Loews hotel expects to reopen on June 1, these J-1 interns are already anticipating that they will not be prioritized to go back to work immediately due to their non-immigrant status. But they’re still hoping to go back to work when the hotel returns to its normal operations.


2 Comments on this post.

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  • Jamela
    1 May 2020 at 2:21 pm - Reply
  • Mario
    2 May 2020 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Sorry for all J-1 visa holders, it is AMERICA FIRST policy, the citizen will be the first priority, this will earn votes for TRUMP. Green Card holders are second priority, J-1 visa holder not guaranteed. The only chance is to get married to a Citizen.