Why the November elections is important to Filipino Americans, say leaders

PWC Executive Director Aqui Versoza leads election forum

PWC Executive Director Aqui Versoza leads election forum

By Carol Ojeda Kimbrough

Exclusive to TheFILAMLA.com

With only 58 days left before the November elections, the Pilipino Worker Center (PWC)hosted a forum on Sept. 10, 2016 in Los Angeles to discuss the impact of this election on the Filipino American community and to encourage voter participation.

Over 50 people attended the event and many were members of the Association of Filipino Workers (AFW). PWC Board of Directors Chair Michael Sarmiento welcomed the audience, followed by PWC Director Aquilina Soriano Versoza who spoke on the history of immigrant communities and the right to vote.

Versoza explained that while PWC is non-partisan and cannot endorse individual candidates, it does work to support or oppose state or local initiatives impacting the community.

Bill Gallegos, former Executive Director of the Communities for a Better Environment and former member of the PWC Board of Directors said there is a lot at stake in this election, especially in the area of immigration. Gallegos warned that if Donald Trump wins, a large number of undocumented immigrants and their US-born children would be subject to deportation.

The federal government would have to hire 200,000 ICE agents to implement this sweeping mandate.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton’s position on immigration has been influenced by the force of the Bernie Sanders campaign and she is now supporting a comprehensive immigration reform policy with a pathway to (US) citizenship.

Grace Barrios, Vice President of the Pilipino American Los Angeles Democrats (PALAD) described the growth in numbers of Filipinos in the U.S., estimated to be between 3.4 to 4 million as of the 2010 Census.

Forum attendees weigh in on the impact of election.

Forum attendees weigh in on the impact of election.

Filipino voters tended to be Republicans, she said, until 2008 when Filipinos changed their party affiliation and leaned more towards being Democrats. However, in spite of these numbers, Barrios stated that Filipinos do not seem to be involved in American politics and are more knowledgeable about Philippine politics.

Eddy Gana, Jr., chairperson of the KmB Pro People Youth, spoke about issues affecting the youth, specifically issues about education, racial justice, fair and humane immigration policies, and war and peace in the Middle East.

Gana reminded the audience that the organization he represents does not endorse any particular candidate but that people should vote the candidate that “best represents your values.”

Terry Villasenor, Caregiver Leader of the Association of Filipino Workers described how a Trump presidency would make the lives of many caregivers, most of whom are undocumented, “miserable.”

Villasenor recognized that undocumented immigrants cannot vote but can make their voices heard and educate the American public through other means, such as social media.

Some participants have rhetorical questions: Myrla Baldonado of PWC wanted to know Hillary Clinton’s stand on cleaning up the toxic legacy of US bases in the Philippines, in light of President Obama’s promise to provide $90 million to clean up unexploded bombs in Laos.

Lolit Andrada Lledo asked what would it mean “if Trump wins?,” in response to an earlier statement that voting for a third party is not a wasted vote.

A member of the audience reminded everyone that in 2000, Democrat Al Gore lost to Republican George W. Bush because of a third party candidate Ralph Nader and how the country is still reeling from the consequences of that loss.

Versoza concluded the forum by asking for volunteers to do phone banking to support two California initiatives, Propositions 55 and 57, and to mobilize the community to get our voices heard. She said there are some paid positions for training volunteers during the month of October.


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