Tag Archives: migrant workers

Honoring Carlos Bulosan


(Design by Nicole Ramirez)

I’ve been re-reading Bulosan’s America Is In The Heart lately. Perhaps its my recent move to the Pacific Northwest, the Fall colors in Oregon, the beginning of the rainy season, or perhaps it because I just need to see these region of the U.S. through different eyes, not mine.

My heart skips a beat when the words “Yakima Valley” or “Portland” jumps out of the page at me. But even more powerful than before, I am more excited about reading Bulosan’s thick description of the danger of being “Filipino in America” in the 20th century. I am in awe of the train rides, the roles of hotels, or free meals by a migrant stranger in Bulosan’s writing.

The awe comes from the persistence of these transient aspects of his writing in contemporary Filipino America. For Filipino domestic workers in New York, train rides are a moving geography, an exercise in intelligibility. A train ride could result in a serendipitous meeting with a fellow Filipino who might have a part time opportunity in mind. For Filipino caregivers in San Francisco, hotels are the familiar geographies of home for migrants living in the Tenderloin and the SoMa. There they are cooking adobo, pancit and spaghetti out of rice cookers, because after all food needs to be made, with or without a stove. Lastly, the free meals from a stranger, the pakikisama that has persisted throughout the years, I believe has something to do with the conditions under which migrant Filipinos are brought to the U.S. and then (mis)treated when they’re here.

I’m not saying its all the same. Its absolutely different. But clutching Bulosan under my arm these days, I feel closer to the migrant workers whom I’ve had the privilege to share meals with.

This Saturday in Seattle, Carlos’ final resting place, I’ll consider the questions below with some esteemed comrades:

  1. How has the political economy of Filipino labor export changed from Bulosan’s time to today?
  2. How can Bulosan’s writing expose the racialized labor order in the post-industrialized American economy of today?
  3. What does Bulosan’s history of Filipino migration and Filipino labor teach us about the the sexuality of Filipino migration?
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Class Discussion on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Lesson objectives:

  • Identify the main points and critiques of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill
  • Analyze the logics and critiques of the bill
  • Explore the sociological links between immigration and race in the current contemporary political debate


Students will have watched the film, “Lost in Detention” and read the below articles outlining the CIR bill and some critiques:




On the projector, project this visual for reference: http://qz.com/76047/all-the-paths-to-us-citizenship-in-the-senates-immigration-bill-visualized/


In the beginning of the course, have students get into small groups to discuss the basic proposals of the CIR. On a sheet of butcher paper or regular paper, have them chart out the main interventions of the CIR bill. They can reference the article above.

Then, have them discuss the below questions:

  • Who’s included in the path to citizenship, who’s excluded, what are the barriers to getting onto the path, and how treacherous is the journey?
  • What’s the bill do about immigration enforcement?
  • What’s the bill do to legal pathways for immigration? Who can now immigrate legally? Who does the bill cut out?
  • How is immigration reform racialized? Which racial/ethnic groups are excluded?

Have them draft a reform that makes sense to them.

Have them report back to the larger class.

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Why May 1 Matters

What is May 1? Four days before Cinco de Mayo. The day after April 30. AND, International Workers Day all over the globe.

Whatever you need to do to remember it, do it.

In the US, May 1 has also doubled for Immigrants/Workers Day. A kasama once said, “It’s like Christmas for workers.” Its the day folks come out to celebrate the fact that without low-wage im/migrant workers, our lives would come to a halt. In the past, huge mobilizations of communities that work on different social justice issues come out to mark the day as significant and, more importantly, a day to signal the need for real change around the issues of immigration and today’s working people.

This year though, its EVEN more important to come out to a May Day mobilization near you. Why? Because in the current political debate on Comprehensive Immigration Reform by the bipartisan Gang of Eight, the voices of immigrants, immigrant communities and families are on the line. Literally, many of our mothers, fathers, sisters, sons, grandparents, cousins, friends, loved ones are on the chopping block. Many will be deported. Many will be detained. Families will be separated. Jobs will be lost. Livelihood for families left behind will be severed. This reform will change the landscape of the US. For those of us who live here, those of us who have families that depend on people living and working in the US, this will change our lives.

So, we (by ‘we’, I mean everybody), must help shape this debate. We have to engage in public demonstration, public discourse and organizing around this issue to protect and defend our communities.

May Day is your chance. Get out there. Hold a sign. Sign up for an organization that is engaged with the immigrant rights struggle. Be a part of the change.

Visual graphic of pathways to citizenship:


Colorlines discussion on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill:




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May 1

May 1

Stand with immigrants, workers, communities of color, LGBTQ folks on Wednesday, May 1, 2013!

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Can’t get a break: Story of Filipina migrant workers

Often, in the spheres of the Global Forum of Migration and Development and/or the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, icons of migrant workers are those that look like the pictures below. Smily. Shiny. Happy. Eager. 

But in the real world, the one that’s not smily. Not shiny. Migrant workers are dealing with some really complicated issues.

Most recently, in California, Filipino nurses filed a discrimination lawsuit against Sutter Health-California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) and St. Luke’s Hospital in the Bay Area. Administrators claimed that they were told not to hire Filipino nurses. Even though, Filipino nurses comprise more than half of nursing staff in any given hospital in the Bay Area. And heck, many hospitals in any major city in the US.

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure to view an uncut version of the documentary, “The Learning” by Ramona Diaz. It’s a moving documentary about Filipino teachers from the Philippines moving to Baltimore, Maryland to work, their struggles with being away from home, the transition of dealing with American students and, America, and the contradictions in the process.

A couple of days ago, Colorlines magazine writes about an alarming trend among Filipino migrant workers in the US. Michelle Chen writes, “Filipina workers just can’t get a break these days.” Damn right.

There’s definitely something up with Filipina migrant workers and the type of discrimination they’re facing in the US.

I’m gonna think and sleep on this more tonight. I’ll write through it tomorrow morning.

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