Filipino voices and visibility matter in American society
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – Filipinos rank third largest Asian demographic group (next to Indians and Chinese) in the US but whose voices and visibility have yet to be fully optimized as a significant political and social block.
As such, Consul General of New York Claro Cristobal encouraged Filipinos to participate in the 2020 US Census as way to make Filipino voices and visibility count. The US is home to the largest immigrant Filipinos, followed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada, according to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).
During the ConGen’s Media Hour on September 12, 2019, Cristobal told members of the Fil-Am Press Club of New York (FAPCNY) that Filipinos should participate in the Census for it is a tool that ensures equal opportunity and protection, Federal affirmative action plans and funding, and a way to understand the demographic changes of a locality.
“The idea is to make our impact better known to society, to attend to our basic needs, raise our profile, and family welfare through the Census. We in the Philippine government need a solid ground as to the real numbers of Filipinos here,” he said.
Cristobal explained that if Filipinos wanted to make waves in the American political arena or their voices heard in policy advocacy, they should start with responding to the Census. “Political leaders would know if we are a force to give attention to if the Census shows the numbers,” Cristobal said. Federal and state funding for socio-economic programs are also dependent on the Census, he added.
The 2010 Census roughly estimated Filipinos in the US to be 4 million, with an estimated 360,000 Filipinos in the East Coast. In Queens neighborhoods, program undercuts were particularly high in immigrant populations, such as East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, because of non-participation of residents during the 2010 Census.
The inclusion of the citizenship question in the upcoming Census has already created a cautious attitude among Filipinos here in participating in the population count. Of late, the Supreme Court has struck out the question on citizenship from the questionnaire.
The MPI data show that approximately 188,000 Filipinos were on an unauthorized status in the 2010-14 period. This estimate comprises less than 2 percent of the 11 million unauthorized population.
The MPI also estimated that about 18,000 Filipino unauthorized immigrants in 2017 were immediately eligible for the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. However, as of January 31, 2018, less than 3,800 Filipinos were active participants, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data. There are about 683,000 unauthorized youth were participating in the DACA program which has been stopped by Pres. Trump in March 2019.
Asked why Filipinos are not seen as solidly as a political block, compared to Koreans or Vietnamese, which have gained congressional and senatorial seats despite being small in population size, Cristobal opined that Filipino immigrants may have assimilated into American society and have not created a distinction as an ethnic group.
Cristobal is not the only government official who has encouraged people to take part in the 2020 Census. Queens borough deputy president Sharon Lee told Filipinos gathered during the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day at the Queens Borough Hall encouraged a vigorous participation of people in the 2020 Census. “You all have to be counted for visibility and access to government programs in health, education, and protection,” she emphasized.