JERSEY CITY: The day after nation-wide mobilizations on May 1st to support immigrant rights and an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system, Jersey City community members gathered for a forum at the Five Corners Library here to listen to speakers address the topic of “Immigration Under Obama.”
The forum was sponsored by the New York/New Jersey Philippine Forum which strives to meet the needs and concerns of Filipino immigrant families, especially working-class, undocumented and other marginalized members of the community.
While open to all Jersey City residents, many of the forum’s audience members were drawn from the immediate vicinity of the library which is just a stone’s throw away from a major commercial strip that serves the Filipino immigrant community. Attendees sought to understand immigration policy under the current administration as well as specific answers to their and their relatives’ and friends’ immigration woes.
The degree of insecurity felt by many in the immigrant community of Jersey City become clear to Philippine Forum activists who encountered people fearful to attend the forum because they were afraid that they might be targeted by I.C.E. agents.
However, Attorney Felix Vinluan, legal counsel of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), and one of the speakers of the forum assured community members in attendance that they had every right to attend. In his presentation he stated “immigrants, even the undocumented, have the right to freedom and speech and freedom of assembly.”
In addition to Attorney Vinluan’s “Know Your Rights” presentation, Dr. Robyn Rodriguez, Philippine Forum-New Jersey Coordinator, Sociology professor and immigrant rights advocate; and, Chia-Chia Wang of the American Friends Services Committee (AFSC) provided background on current immigration policy. They focused more in depth, however, on local immigrant rights’ struggles in New Jersey, including the controversial 287(g) program which would enable deputize local police to carry out immigration enforcement duties in their communities. Dr. Rodriguez and Ms. Wang emphasized the importance of interethnic and interracial solidarity amongst immigrant communities to stand up against local attacks on immigrant rights.
Philippine Forum vows to continue to organize forums like this in Jersey City to continue to raise awareness amongst immigrants about their rights as well as to encourage immigrants to join together in unity against anti-immigration forces locally as well as for comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level.
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