Filipino Americans in the News (Part 1 of 2)

by Joseph Pimentel/

AS we head into the new year, it is time to reflect and reminisce about our vibrant and ever-growing Filipino American community in 2007. The Asian Journal editors picked these top 10 stories that showcase the colorful year for Filipino Americans.

Filipino Veterans Equity Act

Like a bell curve, this year started favorably for the aging veterans when Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) introduced The Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007 to the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively.

The FilVet Equity Bill hit its peak when the two champions managed to pass the bill out of their respective Veterans’ Affairs Committees in June and July. It was the first time in 14 years since its introduction in Congress that the Filipino Veterans Equity legislation moved forward. Toward the end of the year, however, Republican opposition stalled the bill, preventing it from appearing on floor debate in the Senate and House.

If passed, an estimated 7,000 WWII FilAm veterans living in the US and 12,000 WWII Filipino veterans in the Philippines would have restored US Veterans status and will be eligible for Veterans Affairs (VA) disability pension benefits.

However, there is a 10 percent mortality rate. Filipino WWII veterans continue to age and  pass on while the bill is stalled. The fight for equity, however, continues into 2008.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill would have helped alleviate the status of more than half-a-million undocumented Filipinos living in the US.

Last June, the US Senate shot down the comprehensive immigration reform bill. The Senate made it an immigration clean sweep when they voted against advancing the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), a bill that would have provided children of illegal immigrants a chance to gain legal status last October 24.

Since then, a crackdown on the undocumented began. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced work-site raids, work-site enforcement, and shipped out more deportation letters.

The Servano family of Pennsylvania received their letter last October. Only a last minute reprieve prevented Dr. Pedro Servano and his wife Salvacion from deportation back to the Philippines.

This year became financially difficult for immigrants to migrate to the US when the cost of citizenship doubles to $595 and the cost of becoming a legal permanent resident triple to $930 starting 2008.

The anti-immigration movement also gained momentum. US citizens are taking it upon themselves to alleviate the illegal immigration problem forming Minute Man organizations across the US.

Sentosa 27

The Sentosa 27 sent a chilling message to all potential Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) – Beware.

The group – 26 registered nurses and one physical therapist from the Philippines alleged that they were brought to the US only to be exploited and abused by Sentosa Care LLC and the Sentosa Recruitment Agency,  the agency that hired them in Manila.

The group has filed a lawsuit and complaint about their ordeal in the Philippines and New York, the State where they were employed.

The group alleged upon arriving in the US, that they were duped into working as agency nurses and not as direct-hire staff nurses.  They also filed charges of maltreatment, abuse, and lack of compensation for overtime. Sentosa, on the other hand, has filed a counter-suit alleging that the group breached their contract and another for endangering their patients’ welfare.

Desperate Housewives

The season premiere of ABC’s Desperate Housewives in September caused a stir in the Filipino community.

When Teri Hatcher’s character made a flippant remark about the integrity of Filipino doctors, the Filipino community worldwide made their voices heard.

In the episode, actress Hatcher’s character, Susan, goes in for a medical checkup and is shocked when the doctor suggests she may be going through menopause.

She responds, “OK, before we go any further, can I check these diplomas? Just to make sure they aren’t, like, from some med school in the Philippines?”

The statement drew condemnation from Filipinos all over the world prompting governemnt officials to get into the fray. More than 127,000 names signed an online petition demanding an apology from ABC. Statements from the Philippine medical education board to Malacanang Palace also demanded an apology.

ABC officials apologized a few days later and promised to edit the offensive remark made on the show. ABC also said they would work more closely with the Filipino community in for job opportunities in the network.

GABNet 3

After attending a women’s conference in the Philippines, Gabriela Network (GABNet) founders – USC Professor and GABNet Chairperson Dr. Annalisa Enrile, journalist Ninotchka Rosca and activist Judith Mirkinson, were barred from returning to the US from Manila, Philippines.

Apparently, the Philippine Department of Justice had their names on a “hold” list. There was much concern about their stay in the Philippines, after 90 women organizers, activists and leaders have been assassinated in the Philippines since 2001. The Philippines is second only to Iraq in the number of writers and media people murdered.

Dr. Enrile (a US citizen) and her companions’ friends and supporters barraged the US embassy in the Philippines and received a flood of e-mails and faxes for their release. Protests were mounted all across the nation from San Diego to Los Angeles, from San Francisco, to Chicago, and New York.

After a few weeks, Enrile, Rosca and Mirkinson were finally  allowed to go back to theUS.

In a press conference welcoming her arrival in Los Angeles, Enrile discussed the harassment she received from airport officials. She said that many of the officials asked for bribes.

When Enrile asked an official why her name was on the “hold” list, one official said, “You are a member of the Taliban.”


(To be Continued)

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