SAN JOSE, CA — While Filipino culture was celebrated at this community event, the goal was to uplift kababayans and empower them with knowledge, especially those who may be undocumented.
A collective of different Filipino organizations — which includes immigration attorneys and advocates for immigrant justice — were available to answer any questions from the community.
“There’s an estimated 300,000 Filipinos who would have or are currently at risk for deportation, or who are here undocumented, and need these services…or just need the awareness that there are people out here in this community working to make sure that we are protected,” said Angelica Cortez, Director and Founder of Lead Filipino.
Community organizers understand that the fear of living in the US as an undocumented immigrant has heightened since Donald Trump has become President — but they say they should not continue to live in the shadows, especially if they need help.
Among the issues discussed at the clinic — renewals for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — a step these experts highly recommended.
“For DACA renewals, I think the risk is much less because their information is already there. They’re not submitting new information to the government, and the possibility of still having a work permit that is valid for two years, and being able to work legally, and get some other benefits… I think that outweighs any risk of submitting a renewal petition,” said Atty. Beatrice Pangilinan, from the Asian Law Alliance.
Other services offered at the event included the understanding that despite one’s immigration status, workers cannot be intimidated because many fall victim to wage theft.
“You are entitled to fair wages, fair pay,” said Atty. Lorna Garcia from the Filipino Bar Association of Nor Cal. “You cannot be abused by your employer, and they cannot take advantage of you, just because you’re undocumented. You do have those rights. It’s not something to be afraid of.”
While this immigration clinic took place in the Bay Area — organizers hope that Filipinos across the country can be made aware of immigration issues that apply to them.
“The climate is changing every day. It’s hard to foresee, so that’s why we’re building solidarity through events like these,” said Cortez. “Not just in the South Bay, but we’re working in concert with the East Bay and our San Francisco organizing partners, just to ensure folks are just informed. It starts with spreading the information, knowing that services exists ,and knowing what your rights are.”
Immigrant attorneys at this event also warn those seeking help to be wary of scammers who take advantage of vulnerable immigrants.
They recommend checking the reputations of any organization, before offering any of your private information to them.