Tuesday, September 11, 2007

OFW

upward

Few weeks ago, majority of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) shared a common sentiment with regards to an article written by Malu Fernandez. This synchronized tune seems to be fading fast with everyone having a different beat on a particular occurrence involving an OFW.

Last Friday, I received an email from a former officemate about an incident that took place in Seattle Airport last August 31 involving a Filipino engineer and his family. Attached in the said email is the letter of OFW A (I won’t be mentioning their names here) to the hiring agency. Discrimination was way too obvious in some portions of the letter. Granted that what was written was true, I really hope it won’t happen again.

After your confirmation that the E-2 Visa problem has been resolved for Engineers and even dependents, I have rescheduled my flight booking to August 31. Unfortunately, upon our entry to Seattle Immigration, I and my family were forced to turn around and return to the Philippines. There were no questions asked on the Immigration booth.

She even told me that we should have been put to jail and banned for entering the U.S.A. for 5 years. Also, because I am a Filipino I should be included in their block list. But, none of these will happen if I agree to buy a ticket and go home willingly. In my opinion, this was already some sort of harassment to my family. I was not even allowed to use my mobile phone to contact people I know and request help. I requested that I should be given the privilege to contact my employer so that things could be fixed if this was just a misunderstanding.
We were holding a valid and genuine E-2 Visa. And yet, we were detained and treated like criminals for 12 hours. Considering that I have my kids with me, whom are minors. My son is nine years old and my daughter is seven years old. Is it legal to detain minors for 12 hours? We were tired and hungry when we arrived in Seattle and after the long wait for the interrogation to finish. Actually, it was me who requested the interrogation to be stopped. The set of questions were already repeated three times. I just told the Officer that the questions were answered three times already and my family needs me to be with them at that time, since they were in shock and scared.

I am also hoping that upon resolving the issue, my family’s record could be corrected on the US and Philippine Immigration. One more thing, the CBP Enforcement Officer had insisted to me that XXX current operation is illegal. I tried to reason out with her that XXX is complete with the appropriate papers with an Immigration Lawyer. But, she never listened. Instead she told me that all Filipino Engineers working in Houston are all illegal. And, they can be arrested anytime. Also, the Officer told me that they are thinking of putting a Border Patrol in Houston to catch all XXX E-2 Visa holders.

A few months back, a similar incident had happened too. I don’t know the status of the engineer who was sent back to the Philippines and his 5-year visa was revoked upon his return.

If these engineers had complied with all the requirements, why do they have to experience this kind of treatment? I mean, you wouldn’t be granted a 5-year visa by the US Embassy if you are to work “illegally” as what the officer had insinuated. It must be legal. Otherwise, your application will be denied.

OFW A must feel terribly bad. He sure felt helpless seeing his children, in their innocence, played by Mr. Discrimination.

Somewhere in Middle East, OFW B, a concerned individual, sent a letter to Her Excellency PGMA.

We would like to bring to your Excellency’s attention this incident that happened to our citizens, our kababayan who had allegedly suffered illegal detention, anguish and harassment in the hands of the Seattle Immigration, USA upon arrival in the US mainland to fulfill an employment which never took place due to this incident.

One of the more important issues here is the kind, the way; the CBP Enforcement Officer had treated our citizens like criminals (they are a family with innocent children).

Interrogating and detaining them for 12 hours for possessing a valid visas, XXX employment contract and treating them inhumanely is a clear violation of human rights.

Quoting the words of the CBP Enforcement Officer, She said that, “ All Filipino Engineers working in Houston are all illegal. And, they can be arrested anytime. Also, the Officer told me that they are thinking of putting a Border Patrol
in Houston to catch all XXX E-2 Visa holders."

This is a very serious accusations indeed, and MUST BE LOOKED INTO BY OUR GOVERNMENT, TO PROTECT OUR CITIZENS AND TO AVOID ANY REPETITIONS OF SUCH INHUMANE TREATMENT.

Madame President, we knew that you would not let this happen to your citizens. We kindly ask that an appropriate investigation be done and that those CBP Enforcement Officer be punished and a rectification on the damage done on the part of our citizen, OFW A and family be immediately provided by the concerned parties.

We wish you all the best and most of all good health, your Excellency.

This email prompted OFW C, an engineer working in Houston to react

Hello Sir,

nabasa ko lang yung e-mail mo kay pres.arroyo..thank you sa sympathy at sa concern..pero gusto kong malaman mo na mukhang sa sulat mo eh palalain mo pa sitwasyon..ano man ang nangyari kay OFW A and his family is an isolated case..nangyayari kahit kanino at kahit saang bansa.Gusto kong malaman nyo na OK kami dito..walang problema sa employment,sumsahod kami sa oras,puro bago at magagara ang kotse.Di lang talaga stable ang visa namin at pwedeng mangyari kanino man ang nangyari kay OFW A,laging may risk pag galing bakasyon pero anong magagawa namin,mahigpit sila dito.. america to..walang kaming problema sa employment ang naging problema lang ay sa immigration at nakatyempo nga si OFW A ng mahigpit na officer..alam mo naman siguro ang batas kahit saang bansa..kahit may visa ka na,they have the rgiht to deny your entry..at talagang wala kang rights kasi di kanila citizens..ano ba irereklamo nyo o namin?..it's their laws and policy at palagay ko walang kapangyarihan ang gobyerno natin sa batas ng ibang bansa.Nasa middle east ka,anong alam mo sa nangyayari dito?..our employer and our employer's attorney is doing everything para mabigyan ng solusyon ang problema sa immigration sa airport...Again,thank you sa concern mo and sana wag kang basta-basta susulat kung kani-kanino,na wala namang consent galing samin dito..kung may reklamo man di galing sa middle east o saan mang bansa...kung di samin..alam mo naman sa pinas pagnamedia to they will do everything to further infuriarated the situation..magmumukha kaming kawawa dito na hindi naman..baka gusto mong sumikat,eh wag mo naman kaming gamitin..peace

Lots have been said already and it will further continue. The replies look as if its becoming a war of OFWs in the US versus OFWs the Middle East. Which I believe, OFW A wouldn’t want to see happening.

OFW B had some valid points. He may not be directly involved and is not working in the US but he had raised some issues that need to be look at. He had clearly stated his main concern, about the treatment OFW A suffered despite possessing a valid visa.

On the other hand, OFW C had some valid points too. But the way he delivered his concern is a bit off. He could have written it in subtly. Some OFWs had better benefits than what you have mentioned, so I guess no need to highlight those parts.

In my humble opinion though, if case this incident will be “sensationalized” and all engineers working in US be investigated, they need not worry at all since they can confidently present their document as legal workers, right?

Incidents like these will continue to happen if it will not be resolved the soonest. Keeping mum sometimes helps. Sometimes it serves as venue for more abuses. Every OFW around the world needs to be more vigilant. Not all the times we have to succumb to abuses and discriminations.

Just my fuckin’ 2 cents.

/totomai
09/10/07


24 comments:

  1. bakit ganun? dalawa ang nakakalungkot sa ipinost mo para sa akin:

    1. diskriminasyon ng US officers sa Pilipino.

    2. asal-talangka ng OFW sa kapwa niya Pilipino.

    :(

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  2. @tukayo, i just dont get how can a valid visa holder be subjected for treatment like that. whew!

    as for the second. i dont know too. perhaps, its just the way it is. just so sad.

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  3. Nakakalungkot naman ito. Tama ka naman, eh. If OFW C has nothing to hide and if his stay in the US is legal, he has nothing to fear should the news of the discrimination reach the president and the local media. Kahit pa saang lupa ka nakaapak at kahit ano pa ang batas na umiiral dun, walang excuse ang i-subject mo ang isang pamilya, lalo na ang mga bata, sa labindalawang oras na veiled torture.

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  4. @bing, thats been the point of argument circulating in the emails. had OFW B crossed the line? or OFW C overreacted?

    baka nga strict talaga dun, amerika un eh. hanggang asia lang ako. ill never know.

    its just so sad to see these children suffer discrimination. i hope their hopeful eyes wont change to eyes of angst and hatred as they grow.

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  5. This is interesting, sad and scary. Like you said, if you have the right papers to show, no need to fear.

    I feel for the OFW A and his family, especially his young children. INS has gotten super strict. I guess pressure's on them. Just think about all the terrorists who crossed the borders, who took innocent lives the morning of 9/11 (6th anniversary today). It's a shame that OFWs have to suffer for all of these. It might have something to do with the timing too. Illegal immigration is a very hot topic for politicians running for president here. Thousands of Illegal immigrants enter the US everyday, making it so hard for people who have good intentions, people who are willing to undergo the crucial process of obtaining a visa of whatever kind.

    It's making it so hard for my family back in Pinas to get even a visitor's visa to come visit me here. :(

    It is definitely rude for the officer to treat the pinoy eng'r and his family like that. I've seem some of them do that to immigratns at the INS office. Blows my mind. They know that you are at their mercy. But I've seen some that are actually nice.

    Should terrorism be to blame for all of these?

    By the way, OFW C's reaction show's a little selfishness on his side, although I understand his fear of getting in trouble.

    Ahay lu-oy man to sang wife and kids nya, 12 hrs?!

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  6. Remember Malou Fernandez? Hehe :D

    And yeah, I love you! Hehehe check here

    Spread the love, ya?

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  7. Hi Karis, like I said, OFW C has a point too, its just the way he delivered his reply that certainly was out of the way, imo.

    They always say that OFWs are the modern heroes and it looks like that being a hero you have to suffer like this. The anguish, the embarrassment, even a 7-digit monthly salary wont able to compensate the fate they experience.

    I’m sorry to hear that your family is having a difficulty of getting a visa but perhaps in a right time, they will be able to visit you there.

    Of course, not all officers are rude, even in different countries, may mga masusungit na parang demonyo hehehe.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    @Geo,

    Of course, I still remember Malu. A one-hit wonder. Hehehe!

    Anyways, I’ll visit your blog later.

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  8. Dear All,

    I know most of you are in the know but just in case you have not read the latest, here's one to uplift your ego and nationalistic spirit.

    The International Travel Industry, thru its International Travel Scouts as reported by the Wall Street Journal, one of the world's leading business publications, has chosen Boracay Island, as one of the top 10 contenders to become one of the tourism industry's most trendy
    destinations in the world. The other destinations tipped by the International Travel Scouts as the " Hit" destinations of the future include Honduras, Seychelles, Montenegro, Rwanda, Hainan Island, to name a few.

    The other good news is, according to the International labour organization, the ratio of women to men in executive jobs in the Philippines is the highest in the world at about 58 per cent. Barbados follows with 43.4 per cent and then the United States with 42.3 per cent.
    The number of women in senior positions rose to 2,257 million in 2006 from 2,162 million in 2004, according to the article reported by the City Times, dated Sept. 10, 2007. The report further says that " Women are better managers of people". So there you are folks. Have a good day!

    Dick E. Orense
    Abu Dhabi, UAE

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  9. @Dick, thanks for the information. boracay truly deserves its recognition. its beyond beautiful.

    thanks for dropping by

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  10. OFW between US and UAESeptember 12, 2007 at 8:36 AM

    As long as our country is struggling to offer jobs to engineers and other professionals, our kababayans will still continue to work abroad.

    All forms of discriminations are happening in all countries. no exceptions.

    As you said, lets just hope no more incidents like this to happen

    its OFW A issue. slowly becoming an OFW B vs OFW C.

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  11. @OFW, ayos ang name mo a. hehe

    anyway, i think both camps are already silent as i havent received any forwarded mails anymore. hehe

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  12. Discriminations happen if we contenue to allow it. It is like giving them consent to treat us as lowly citizens. The subjects here are all victims, and they did what they thought is right to protect their personal interests. This incident simply illustrates how fragmented we are as a race. We became like that because we can not really trust no one anymore, even the government, to protect us when we are outside the country, not even when we were there(that's why we left, remember?).

    What we do is to try to survive on our own. OFW C is a typical example. I understand him as much as I understood the concerns expressed by OFW B. I feel for OFW A though. His ordeal is just one of the many discriminations we silently suffer as a race every day in different parts of the world. And for as long as we don't act as one, as long as we label ourselves as OFW A-Z, we will never get the fair treatment we seek and deserve.

    Look at the blacks, they transcend the many years of suffering by acting as one. The mexicans or the latinos in general are now doing the same and they are gaining their grounds.

    America is a new frontier and history would tell that it is the land of the immigrants. All the people you will meet here in one way or the other moved from different corners of the world. Even the natives of the ancient times came here for that same reason of every citizen of the world coming here in the modern days.

    And we deserve the same rights as any nation coming here granted we have the legal documents. There are many other citizens/race coming here taking the back doors. But if our entry is legal, why fear to demand to be treated fairly? We deserve that. And we have to impose that and stop being cowards and contented with the cold treatment we get.

    My God, we've been serving the world for many centuries already! Look back in history how good we are as a race and what did we get? Before, colonizers would come to our country to enslave us(spaniards, americans, japanese), look how pathetic we are becoming going out of the country to serve that same race, and we still allow them to discriminate us. We are skilled/professional workers. We are a rare breed of a gem as human resources in the work place. The whites or any other race can not deny that. THEY NEED US. The problem is, we still feel lowly and sometimes act lowly - like martyrs. There's something in us that love the mellow dramatic life. We love to suffer with consent because we feel it is safe.

    When are we going to learn to impose our presence, to be bold, to be loud so our voices would be heard? We will contenue to be a mute race if we contenue to speak and act alone: "magkanya-kanya," or worse if we contenue that crab mentality and bring it with us anywhere we go. I tell you, that's the very reason we are fragmented. And I see that among filipinos even here in America.

    I am but a small voice, I'm no superhero to offer extra ordinary solution to all these. But I understand. I thrive to polish my own moves as an individual to make my Filipino presence in a crowd of mixed races be felt. I may have a small voice but I speak, they hear me and they listen. I encountered instances of discrimination trying to silence me, my voice is tested but I am proud I did not gave in. I stand my small piece of ground, I speak. I wanted to be labeled as a Filipino and not just another asian and I hope in my own small ways my color will gain the respect we deserve.

    Let us put our acts together. If the government could not help us, let us help ourselves. Because True Heroes, that's what we are as OFW's and should be for our family back home, for our country and for each other.

    I wish you well ~ Jeques

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  13. @Jeques. thanks for the reply.

    sometimes, survival is being equated to an act of selfishness. as the line goes, try putting your feet on someone else shoes.

    i mean its always difficult to weigh things. in order to survive, one has to be a realist than being an idealist. yup, no one will help you except you.

    discrimination is happening everywhere and anywhere. each should try to be more vigilant. a small step can perhaps lessen this act.

    thanks

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  14. surviving is one big challenge, keeping one's values intact while trying to survive is even harder.

    The only way to make people aware of your worth is to show them how worthy you are. If you give them the wrong signal that you're less worthy and lowly, they will treat you that way.

    I don't buy it sacrificing my values just to survive. If I'm going to die anyway, I'd rather keep mine intact. Filipinos have good upbringing with strong family values, I don't understand why many of us loss that. We can draw from these values the strength of character that in the end would buy and win us respect. We hope to achieve fair treatment from other nations but we are giving them wrong signal by not treating ourselves fairly. Our acts contradict and some sold their souls to the same people that discriminate them in the process.

    Everybody reason to be realist, and where did our idealists went?
    They are not in the streets anymore shouting their idealism as used to be(most of those in the streets now are fakes - they are being paid to shout someone else's words). True idealist are abroad fighting a different battle to free the country from the same problems that just evolved.

    We should all go back to the values we learned growing up. It is not a heavy load to carry, but rather, it is a shield we should carry while fighting a battle outside the country.

    I wish you well ~ Jeques

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  15. @jeques, of course, our upbringing really helps a lot in facing challenges and being able to survive them. but we must also admit not all the time we should be the one to be followed. at times we need to be a follower too.

    certain adjustments need to be considered. discrimination is even happening in our own country.

    but anyways, thanks for your views :-)

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  16. sorry to hear about this, but i guess, wherever we are, there's always a combination of different personalities such as good/bad consuls. i guess we have to earn it as a nation to have an easier entry anywhere in the world, not only in US. however, for every mistakes some of our bad representatives make, that puts a dark cloud on our collective image as filipinos. the year i came to US, there were several Filipino hiring agencies based in texas who were charged with smuggling teachers, sad to say, i know one of the victims, probably i could have been one of the victims too had i not decided to look for job myself and find an employer myself, outside of any help from hiring agencies in the philippines. the hundreds of victims though, reported the misdeed of the hiring agency to FBI ( i admire their courage and they were protected by the law here too)since when they got to texas, they ended up with no jobs. how would they pay their placement fee? thus they had to report the crime done to them by a fellow filipino. and then there are others more...... unfortunately these misdeeds done by some of our countrymen put a dark spot again in our collective image as Filipinos making travel more difficult. having a valid visa does not guarantee yet an entry in the US ( i knew this on my first entry here and had doubts too if i would be asked to fly back home), for another interview at the consulate in the port of entry will occur. i guess, this should really be a collective effort too, of all of us, to be present legally anywhere so we give way to the rest for an easier travel and entry also anywhere. but then, that is easier said than done, but we could not blame others either for they have their noble intentions of helping out too.

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  17. @ms beth, yup, there are cases na a fellow filipino is responsible for other filipinos fate which is sadder in my opinion. i guess if you are legal you need not to worry of being sent back.

    asia na lang muna ako hehe

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  18. john, we all have the responsibility for the collective fate of our fellowmen and nation, however, not all of us sees that unfortunately and always find the blame on someone else. we as a nation and as a group of people have to work harder to clean up our collective immigration image not only in US but also in other parts of the globe. but could we blame others who chose to be part of the statistics clouding our image? very hard to say for if you listen to them, you would sincerely understand their plight too. i guess before the illegals be pursued (some of them were just victims of circumstances too), it is first the bogus hiring agencies and fake employers who take advantage of people's dreams who should be pursued first. unfortunately and sadly, i was told that these bogus agencies still operate in the philippines under a different company name. for even if they have a case and a trial here in US, but their clout in pinas still continue to work, but the investigation here would only be successful with the support there. definitely, it's not the fault of the victims to be sent back, they were just unfortunate to be part of a sad circumstance that some of our selfish richer countrymen created. could we blame other nations stricter immigration process on us as a group of people? i really don't, for i believe we need to work harder to get to this stage. sad, but true.

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  19. whats confusing though is that some of these engineers just went home for a vacation leave.

    thats so sad ms beth. i hope a new image can be established for us filipinos

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  20. i just find it disconcerting that OFW C was basically telling OFW B to shut up and stop minding OFW A's problem because HE(OFW C) is already living a good, stable life in the US.

    Sure, he has his reasons. And I believe that his reasons are completely wrong.

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  21. john, indi man tanan na engineers work for the same company who may be under investigation. definitely, damo di legal na filipino engineers. i hope you dont generalize or group people just according to their professions (correct me if im wrong but it sounds like you do since you're confused why some of them could go home for vacation leave, of course! they are legal! but it does not mean all would also be.) i've also encountered a lot of sad stories here na have been victimized by the immigration lawyers themselves, napangkwartahan lang sila. each has different situation, we could not group them into one, very unfortunately, the mistakes of few clouds our immigration image.

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  22. @alvin, perhaps he is just scared thats why he reacted that way

    @ms beth, nope i dont generalize, hehe, perhaps my reply earlier was incomplete. hehe

    i heard some stories from my former workmates (now in US) that some of their fellow engineers went home for a vacation since its a part of their contract, and when they return to US after their vacation, they are denied to enter the country and are forced to go back to the Philippines. some engineers never thought this would happen, they had their things / stuffs left in their apartments. their 5-yr visa is immediately revoked. :-(

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  23. There are many in the Fil-Am community feel for the plight of those engineers.
    But they were duped by their employer and the employer's attorneys. Just Google "E2 visa fraud Houston", you will see where immigration attorneys were arrested for visa fraud. There were a couple of different scams going on.
    E2 is an investor visa. It requires a substantial amount of money, though a visa can be issued as part of a deal that the money will be released by the banks only upon issuance of the visa. So visa is issued, but later when they find out no money -- the visa is pulled.
    So this is one way a "valid" visa holder can suddently become an illegal alien suspected of fraud. Get mad at the employer and the attorneys who lied to you, not the people who uphold the law.

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  24. @anonymous, thanks for that, personally, i doubt the E-2 visa eversince. i wondered why they werent giving these engrs a working visa.

    thanks for the info.

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any thoughts to distill?

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