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Filipino domestic workers, youth and allies take action against Arizona’s anti-immigrant law and Schumer proposal

New York—More than 60 Filipino domestic workers, youth and allies marched last Saturday in celebration of May 1st, International Workers Day, to demand humane and comprehensive immigration reform, not the anti-immigrant racial profiling of Arizona’s SB1070 nor the recent proposal put out by NY Senator Schumer and other legislators.

The contingent of mostly domestic workers and other low-wage workers was organized by DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association and Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, as part of a larger coalition of grassroots organizations, Immigrant Communities in Action, which includes restaurant and retail workers and street vendors. They joined a mobilization of thousands who rallied in Manhattan’s Union Square, then marched down Broadway to Foley Square, the heart of the financial district.

This spring, anti-immigrant sentiment has come to greater national attention with two bills at the federal level currently being proposed, and Arizona’s recent SB1070 legislation putting federal immigration powers into the hands of local law enforcement. These developments have galvanized workers from across sectors and ethnic communities to stand up for immigrant rights as workers’ rights.

Juana Dwyer, a nanny and Chairperson of DAMAYAN, addressed the crowd in Union Square. “We risk everything to come to this country for the American Dream. But what we find is our worst nightmare. As a domestic worker, I have taken care of other families’ and their most precious properties... but I have been given little to no respect. While the US government bails out banks and corporations, the 14 million undocumented immigrants are blamed for the crisis, deported and criminalized,” proclaimed Dwyer. “We are the backbone of the US economy. Isn’t it only fair that we are treated like human beings? Isn’t it only fair that the law recognizes us? Isn’t it only fair that we, too, live with dignity?”

Of the estimated 30,000 Filipino domestic workers in the New York and New Jersey area, many face unsafe and unjust workplace conditions exacerbated by a system that uses immigration status as a license for exploitation. Meanwhile, the popular bi-partisan proposal put out by Schumer and others stipulates increased border militarization, the continued criminalization of immigrants through detentions and deportations, and a “back of the line” policy for undocumented immigrants.

“We do not accept the recent anti-immigrant proposal put out by Schumer and other legislators,” said Cita Brodsky, nanny, cook and organizer with DAMAYAN. “It is a far cry from what our community needs.”

Chevy Evangelista of Ugnayan addressed the thousands of immigrants and supporters at Foley Square as the march ended. “Filipinos don’t have any choice but to leave our country and our family in search of livelihood. Twelve years ago, my parents – both professionals in the Philippines – migrated and worked as domestic workers with no benefits and slave-wages. My siblings and I struggled with homesickness, depression, alienation & forced-assimilation… President Obama! Where is the change that you promised we could believe in? Immigrants and citizens now realize that under your administration, deportations & detentions have doubled. Anti-immigrant sentiment is even higher now than after 9/11… On this day, we stand with workers around the globe to demand rights, justice and liberation!” cried Evangelista.

“We are asserting our right to work and live without fear,” said Brodsky. “The popular Tagalog protest call- makibaka, wag matakot (struggle, no fear) – took on a new significance Saturday. We can defeat the racist, anti-immigrant sentiments and proposals in the age of Obama, just like we defeated the Sensenbrenner bill in 2006. As a united community of immigrants and allies, we’re strong and resilient, wag matakot!”

For information, or to volunteer, contact DAMAYAN at (212) 564-6057 or visit DAMAYAN's website or Ugnayan's blog.

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