Community Groups Hold Forum on Deferred Action in Jersey City

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 Photos by Noel Pangilinan

Jersey City, NJ -Filipino youth activist group, Anakbayan New Jersey, joined forces with immigrant and lawyers organizations last August 12 for a “Community Forum on Immigration Reform: Deferred Action” held at the Pope Lecture Hall, Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City.  The said forum provided vital information regarding the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or most commonly known as “Deferred Action.”  It also aimed to empower the Jersey City immigrant community to continue the struggle for comprehensive immigration reform. 

The immigrant community turned out in large numbers to learn about the said new immigration policy.  Anna Brown, head of the Social Justice Program of Saint Peter’s College, gave a warm welcome to the attendees of the forum.  Councilman at-large, Rolando Lavarro, also gave welcoming remarks, commenting on his own experience.  The speakers include DREAM Act activists, Giancarlo Tello and Brenda Aguilar of the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition (NJDAC), and Filipino lawyer and immigrant rights advocate, Attorney Cristina Godinez. They provided  an overview regarding the said new policy.  The forum also provided free legal consultations to the community headed by lawyers from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).

“Deferred Action is simply a stop-gap measure, a band-aid for the overall immigration issue that America faces and is not to be confused with the Dream Act. While the Dream Act is definitely a goal, we should not and will not forget our parents, aunts, and uncles and will continue to push towards ultimately Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” said Giancarlo, core member of the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition or NJDAC. .

Meanwhile leaders in the Filipino community talked about the need to build a strong immigrant movement. Jonna Baldres, Deputy Secretary General of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) gave a comprehensive presentation on the socio-economic factors that lead to forced migration.  “We only want to provide for our families but our governments are forcing us to migrate to look for livelihood elsewhere, separating us from our loved ones.  We must come together, stand up and fight against the 1% that exploits us.  It is only just for us to demand respect, dignity, wages, benefits and rights that are rightfully ours and due to us,  until we achieve full legalization for all,” said Ms. Baldres.

According to statistics, an estimated 2 million individuals nationwide and 40,000 in New Jersey can be eligible for deferred action.  “It is important to note, however, that Deferred Action is not so much an achievement of the Obama administration, as it is the product of thousands of Dream Activists and allied organized forces, who continue to put pressure on US lawmakers in order to assert their rights as undocumented youth,” Bea Sabino, Chairperson of AnakBayan New Jersy, added. Community leaders urge the immigrant community to stay informed, be vigilant and organize support for comprehensive immigration reform.

Anakbayan New Jersey called on the Filipino youth to take part in fighting for immigrant rights. “Filipinos are the second largest immigrant community in the United States.  We come from five centuries worth of migration history, which includes notable personalities like Philip Vera Cruz and Carlos Bulosan, who dedicated their lives to fighting for the civil rights of immigrant workers.  Our identity as young Filipinos in America is deeply rooted in that history; hence, we must step up in continuing the struggle against racism, exploitation, illegalization and criminalization of immigrants. At this juncture in US immigration policy, we must always keep in mind that, undocumented or not, every human being has rights to education, fair and just wages, healthcare and the due process of law,” concluded Ms. Sabino.

The Community Forum on Immigration Reform: Deferred Action was organized by Anakbayan New Jersey and was endorsed and co-sponsored by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), Philippine Forum-New Jersey, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition (NJDAC), Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Action 21, and the Saint Peter’s College Social Justice Program.

On August 25, the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition will be holding a free Deferred Action application drive from 11am to 5pm at the Paul Robeson Campus Center located at 350 Martin Luther King Blvd. Newark, NJ 07102.  For more information please contact NJDAC at info@njdac.org

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