WICA was born out of urgency – to be responsive to the current immigration fever
By Marivir Montebon
New York – It has just begun. The Women’s Immigration Cafe (WICA), my graduate studies requirement, softly begins in the community with FilAm organizations in the Big Apple.
A kick-off forum, Know Your Rights, was initiated by the Filipino International Community of America, headed by President Elena Bahian, with Atty. Maria Lara Gregory on July 19, 2019 in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
WICA would have been born in August, alongside a partnership with the National Federation of Filipino American Associations New York. There’d be a formal launch. But the current social situation was just too urgent, hence WICA advanced itself two weeks ahead of schedule.
With WICA, a series of immigration cafes and networking activities shall have begun in the FilAm community and other communities of color. This networking of groups is nothing new, but in fact part of the thousands of initiatives that respond to immigration issues in the US. Given a thumbs up by my thesis adviser Dr. Andrew Wilson at the Unification Theological Seminary, WICA is education, information, legal action, and entrepreneurial activities combined. Its centerpiece program is the cafe, where pastries made by women immigrants are being served along with coffee as immigration issues are being tackled.
Many thanks to the responsive leadership of Elena Bahian, a teacher and entrepreneur, who saw to it that her members were given the appropriate immigration advice. She served her homemade bibingka as Atty. Gregory provided an informative and insightful lecture on everyone’s right to due process and specific immigration concerns.
Gregory is a New York litigation attorney who leads the New York Center for Education and Legal Remedies, an organization that renders, among others, pro bono legal services in the areas of immigration, elder rights and public benefits. It was founded in response to the changing policies and the evident need of the community for such services. To date, it has initiated the Tagalog and Bengali versions of “Know Your Rights” and has lead in raising community awareness on the matter.
Similar forums are up for grabs as well as on human trafficking and history of Philippine immigrants to the US. These we shall do in a cafe that promotes locally made pastries that augment the incomes of some enterprising women immigrants. Certainly, there’ll be many cookies and cakes to bake and stories to tell. (Photos by Maria Lara Gregory and Elena Bahian).