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News

Upon DACA Repeal, FANHS Reflects on Filipino American History

Categories: News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 5, 2017
Contact: Dorothy Cordova, Executive Director, fanhsnational@gmail.com

SEATTLE, WA: As the Trump administration ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Filipino American National Historical Society reflects on the immigration history of Filipino Americans in the United States. We recognize that the paths to citizenship for our families and communities have been fraught with discrimination and struggle, and we stand in solidarity with the Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants.
The DACA program provided more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants with a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation, as well as eligibility for a work permit. It is estimated that 16,000 Asian Americans were recipients of this program – including 5,000 Filipino Americans.
The mission of FANHS is to promote and preserve the history of Filipino Americans- the second largest Asian American group and the second largest immigrant group in the U.S. Despite the fact that Filipinos are recorded as the first Asian group to set foot in the U.S. in October 1587, and that by the early 1930s there were approximately 100,000 Filipinos living in the U.S., there have been many instances of discriminatory legislation regarding Filipino Americans, immigration, and citizenship. These include:
  1. The Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 which changed the status of Filipinos living in the US from “nationals” to “aliens” and established an entry quota of 50 Filipinos per year (a pittance, considering that the entry quota for Germans was 57,000 per year). When the act was passed, several Filipinos were en route from the Philippines, resulting in a total of 261 Filipinos who were detained in Angel Island, California.
  2. The Filipino Repatriation Act of 1935 promised free transportation to the Philippines (paid for by the U.S. government) for any Filipino who agreed to never to return to the U.S. While never officially claimed as a deportation measure, it is believed that it was created by anti-Asian exclusionists who wanted Filipinos out of the United States. Only 2,100 of the 100,000 Filipinos living in the US agreed to leave; in 1940, the Supreme Court of the United States deemed the law to be unconstitutional.
  3. The Luce–Celler Act of 1946 increased the annual quota for Filipinos and Indians who entered the US to 100 per each group; it also permitted the naturalization of both groups in the US. It was not until 1965, when the the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (also known as the Hart-Celler Immigration and Naturalization Act) passed that the federal government put an end to annual quotas for the Philippines (and other Asian countries).
As a historical society, we understand that immigration from the Philippines has been experienced in similar ways as other Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern countries – and differently from most European countries – signifying the role that historic and institutionalized racism has played in our immigration systems.
Finally, we urge all Americans to acknowledge that besides the indigenous tribes whose land we now live, and the descendants of slaves who were forced into this country, we all come from ethnic groups who once immigrated without papers or documentation. Like these young DACA recipients, they were in search of the American Dream. Like those earlier immigrants of the past, these young undocumented immigrants deserve a chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness too.
FANHS National Trustee, Dr. Kevin Nadal, a Professor of Psychology at the City University of New York, stated: “DACA recipients are teachers, attorneys, community organizers, health care workers, students, and more. They came to this country as children; they are just as American as me. While there is no logical reason to repeal this program, there are dozens of reasons of why it would be bad for our country – economic loss, dismantled families, mental health consequences for all involved, and more. These Americans should not be criminalized. They did nothing wrong. They cannot be ‘sent home’; they are already home.”
Photo of Dolores Alic and her immigrant family in New York City (circa 1952).

Photo Credit: Fernandez-Alic Family Archives/ Photo Caption: Dolores Alic and her immigrant family in New York City (circa 1952).


The mission of the Filipino American National Historical Society is to promote understanding, education, enlightenment, appreciation, and enrichment through the identification, gathering, preservation, and dissemination of the history and culture of Filipino Americans in the United States.