What is coming up in October?
By Jon D. Melegrito
I am writing this on the eve of The Pope’s first-ever visit to the capital of the world’s leading capitalist country, where its ruling class allows billionaires to thrive while millions of people starve, where incarceration rates are the highest in the world, and where candidates who aspire to lead the most powerful nation on earth are pandering to fear and hatred of immigrants and Muslims.
And now comes the Pontiff. His message of love and compassion for the poor, the hungry and the stranger will no doubt soothe the troubled soul of this city – a welcome respite from the vile rhetoric that has filled the airwaves since the campaign season begun. Instead of wining and dining with the rich and famous, he is expected instead to visit the homeless, the undocumented, the incarcerated. Because that’s what Jesus said: “If you have done this to the least of my brethren, you have done it to me.”
It remains to be seen, however, whether the gospel message will change the tone and texture of the campaign season. But the Pope’s presence is a breath of fresh air in a city that’s fraught yet again with toxic talks and threats of a government shut-down, where services to ordinary Americans will be disrupted.
Still, we look forward to October.
White House Summit. Kicking off a national Celebration of Filipino American History Month (FAHM) is a White House Summit of national leaders on October 2, hosted by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) and the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE). It will feature discussions with Administration officials about their initiatives on immigration, such as DACA, DAPA and family reunification as they relate to Filipino World War II Veterans.
National Town Hall. Earlier in the day, KAYA (a progressive group of Filipino Americans involved in public policy) will hold a National Town Hall, bringing together leaders from across the country to discuss pressing social, cultural, and political issues affecting our community. These include WWII Veterans, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and comprehensive immigration reform. KAYA also plans to continue the discussion around political and civic engagement, especially as they related to the 2016 elections. “Our hope is to work with Filipino American leaders and organizations in every region to continue building our policy advocacy and gain more political leverage for our community,” says Marita Etcubanez, one of KAYA’s leaders.
Congressional Gold Medal. The following day, Oct. 3, board members of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP) will convene at the Philippine Embassy. This meeting is open to national leaders and individuals interested in joining the campaign to secure the Congressional Gold Medal Award for Filipino World War II veterans. On June 11, Senators Mazie Hirono (HI) and Dean Heller (NV) introduced S. 1555, the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015. So far, only 10 Senators and 31 US Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors. To get this bill passed, 67 Senators and 218 members of the House are needed. FilVetREP Board Chairman Tony Taguba is appealing to community leaders to contact their Senators and US Representatives and urge them to support this measure. “The Filipino Veterans World War II accomplished their mission to preserve our freedom,” Taguba says. “We must accomplish our mission to preserve their legacy, and the Filipino American presence in the United States and Philippines. Their story is our National Story.”
A Nation of Immigrants: Commemorating the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act and its Legacy in Re-defining American. On October 7, this important milestone in U.S. immigration history will be commemorated at the Rayburn House Office Building. Sponsoring the event are the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and the National Council on Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA).
In its invitation to the general public, the organizers note that the 50th anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 is “a landmark legislation, which abolished discriminatory national origin quotas that once formed the bedrock of the U.S. immigration system. This law opened the door to immigrants from non-European countries and their family members, and fundamentally shifted the definition of American. Today, a growing number of immigrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America enter the country in unprecedented numbers, making the U.S. a uniquely diverse nation. Asian Americans and Latino Americans continue to be the fastest growing racial groups in the country having increased by 2.9% and 2.1% respectively, since 2012.
“While the Immigration Act of 1965 ushered in a time of tolerance and acceptance, the U.S. has grown increasingly xenophobic and distrustful of many of the same immigrants that were once welcomed at our borders. Divisive rhetoric has fueled the mass incarceration and deportation of refugee communities, the detention of asylum seekers, the strengthening of barriers to forms of immigration relief, and the growing cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE to raid and deport families. Additionally, the country’s broken immigration system continues to keep families separated for decades, and offers limited paths to legalization for millions of undocumented men, women and children.”
As beneficiaries of the 1965 Immigration Act, the Filipino American community needs to stand up against anti-immigrant bashing by GOP presidential candidates and demand a fair and just immigration system.