Does Trump's message of exclusion bode ill for Filipino-Americans?: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Protesting Filipinos and Fil-Americans are blocked by anti-riot policemen during a protest rally in front of the US embassy in Manila, Philippines, on Jan 20, 2017.
Protesting Filipinos and Fil-Americans are blocked by anti-riot policemen during a protest rally in front of the US embassy in Manila, Philippines, on Jan 20, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

In its editorial on Jan 23, the paper expresses concern about the fate of Filipino-Americans under President Donald Trump

As per reports, Filipino-Americans (Fil-Ams) appear to be in for a difficult time under the new United States administration. The difficulties seem to involve not only racist but also anti-immigrant concerns, which were amply raised during the election campaign by then presidential candidate Donald Trump himself, railing against Mexicans and other persons of colour and of other nationalities who live and work in the U S, whether legally or illegally.

The experience of harassment whether in school, at work, or out in the streets is quite real, as a second-grader in West Covina, California, has found out. Lester Ramos, chair of the Filipino migrant workers' rights group Migrante South Bay and Orange County, said the boy came home crying after being bullied in school. "His classmate yelled at him, 'Go back to your country!'" Ramos said, as reported by Inquirer correspondent Nimfa Rueda.

It's happening to older Fil-Am students as well. University student Kate Dolorito recounted being stopped by other students on campus and told: "You don't belong here. Go back to where you came from, you illegal immigrant."

These incidents, not limited to Fil-Ams, to be sure, happened after Trump's election and are feared to occur frequently now that he is president.

It is no exaggeration to say that his inauguration on Jan 20 carried more apprehension than hope among American immigrants and persons of colour. He had campaigned on the promise of deporting millions of "illegals," and in his inaugural speech he dwelled on how America had supposedly been weakened because of its tending to its neighbours, and on how it would be "America first" from now on.

The message of exclusion seemed clear.

Filipinos represent a significant portion of today's America. Inquirer research shows that as of 2013-when latest figures were available-there were 3.5 million Filipinos in the United States, representing the fourth largest group of citizens born abroad living there, with the vast majority settling in California. From a mere 105,000 in 1960, the number of Filipino immigrants to the US jumped to 1.8 million in 2013.

Fil-Ams constitute a vital pipeline to their home country. Inquirer research shows that last year, US-based Filipinos sent home US$8.41 billion (S$11.9 billion), or three per cent of the Philippine GDP.

There are far-reaching implications as well. The investment house Moody's said a restriction on immigration rules could sap remittances: "A tightening in immigration rules in the US would over time dampen growth in remittances from foreign workers, which is significant for some economies in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific."

It went on to say that "[Remittances] provide an important source of income for a number of countries. Remittances from the US are largest for the Philippines and Vietnam."

It should be obvious that Filipinos and other nationalities who now make up the great US melting pot, the nation of immigrants who welcomed the needy, the poor and the persecuted, with the "Lady in the Harbour" lighting their way to Ellis island, have made immeasurable contributions to the American society and economy.

The frequently asked questions now are: Will it be harder to obtain a US visa, or to reunite separated families? And what does it mean for the over 271,000 Filipinos (2013 data) staying in the US with no legal documents? With immigration reform still a continuing process in the US, the fate of undocumented immigrants-including those who were brought there as children and are now adults, who have no criminal record, and who know no other home but America-becomes doubly uncertain under a Trump presidency.

Hopefully, the new American president will take a page or two from his predecessor, Barack Obama, who once said: "We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants-a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America's ideals and America's precepts. That's why millions of people, ancestors to most of us, braved hardship and great risk to come here-so they could be free to work and worship and start a business and live their lives in peace and prosperity… This flow of immigrants has helped make this country stronger and more prosperous."

Philippine Daily Inquirer is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 news media entities.