NAFCON Releases over 100 Stories of Migrants in Celebration of International Migrants Day

For December 18th International Migrants Day NAFCON is releasing over 100 responses to the Pulso ng Ating mga Kababayan Survey. Below Filipinos from all over the U.S. share their thoughts and experiences regarding being an immigrant in this country. We encourage readers to share their own stories in the comment section below.

Themes of responses:

  1. Family Migrant Stories
  2. Stories of Migrant Struggles and Perseverance
  3. Stories of Migrant Hardship Related to Work
  4. Stories Related to Racism and Discrimination

Family Migrant Stories

1. I’ve lived in America my whole life but my family has made an effort to try to help the rest of our family in the Philippines as much as possible from petitioning relatives to come over, to sending money back.

2. Parents came to LA in 1989 for a better life and opportunities for their children. I was born in 1992 and am taking advantage of these opportunities to be successful in America.

3. My parents immigrated in the late 1980s when my dad enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Both my parents dropped out of law school to come to the US and support their children. I think that this particularly impacted my dad who constantly struggles with his service in the US military, to which he is religiously opposed. He has not been able to find satisfaction or fulfillment from his job with the navy and this stress took a toll on his ability to create a stable home environment for his family.

4. I arrived in the US when I was 10 years old to live with my father who was already here in the US. My father moved here when I was still young in order to find jobs and for more opportunity. I am grateful that I moved here and was able to reunite with my family and finish with a good education at a prestigious university. I am, however, conflicted with my decision to stay here as most of my family is back in the Philippines. I am torn as my parents get older and face the decision of staying here with their kids or moving back to retire to the Philippines where they are most comfortable.

5. My parents came here from the Philippines at around 1980s. They left so they could get a better life.

6. I am a child of immigrants & my grandmother is 72 years old & has been a caregiver since she moved here from Philippines since the early 1980s.

7. Reason: mother sought better job opportunities and a country in which she felt safe to raise her children (wanted to avoid political instability in the wake of Marcos’s martial law).

8. I arrived in the year 1995, when I was just 7 years old. My mom decided to make the move to reunite with my dad again. Also, we wanted to improve the quality of our lifestyle.

9. I arrived through the petition of my husband. It was tough times at first. I had to send my daughter and son back home in the Philippines for a few years while me and my husband were in the US because it was hard to raise a family, especially very young children, as new immigrants.

10. US born – both my parents were from Cebu. mother came as a nurse. father came through family petition. it was easier then. my cousins trying to come now are having a lot more problems.

11. Born in the U.S., but parents migrated to US in late 1970s as a nurse & engineer

12. Arrived in 1992, only 11 months old, just became a legal resident in 2011, our family was petitioned by my grandmother who passed away in 1993, our family came to the US to grant my grandfather’s wish of his children to become US citizens.

13. All of my uncles but one have moved from the Philippines, whether they are admitted to the US or have to go elsewhere. Feels like a roll of the dice

14. I came here when I was 8 years old. My dad came here after my mom got pregnant he came to the US for a better job opportunity that the Philippines did not have. It took 8 years for my dad to get me and my mom here at America. When I came here I had to learn the language and it was very hard to fit in, but living here in America has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to have in the Philippines.

15. I got her on the year 2007, I was 15 years old, me and my dad actually waited a year for our papers to be approved.

16. I came in 1993 as a 10 year old. my mother came in 1992 and my father has been here since I was 2 years old. coming to the us was not bad but family relations were very hard especially because I did not know my father well. we are all long better now.

17. My parents were both immigrants which made it a little difficult to get a higher education here and a higher paying job

18. Sad – 3 months Fresno California with brother and sister house-sitting.

19. My parents are non-resident workers. My dad came here on 1995, my mom, 1996. They are still contract workers after 17 and 16 years of service here. I think they deserve permanent residency since they’ve worked long and hard for it.

20. I am 23 years old. I do not like it here in the US because there is no time for family to spend together because all they do is work.

21. My mom arrived in her mid 20s in the 80s. She found it difficult to move up in her jobs because she is a Filipino woman.

22. I came in 1987 at the age of 13. My mom was single parent so it was tough for teenager. I was oldest of 4 children.

23. My grandmother wanted to create a better life for her 5 kids as a then-recent divorce, so she came to US on a temporary card and married a white citizen in order to be legalized and bring her kids over. It took many years.

24. I was born in the US to my mother (Filipino) and my father (South Asian). I want to radically reduce the disparity in economic opportunities across marginalized communities and privileged circles.

25. I came here because my daughter are here in the US. I came here as a tourist and then my daughters petitioned me to be a permanent resident last December 2011

26. Na ngayon wala pa ako maikukwento sapagkat 5 buwan (feb/12) sa lamang kami ng aking anak.

27. My sister became americanized when she came here when she was 5

28. I was born here. my parents both immigrated here as teenagers.

29. My mom came here in 1989 as the first in our family


Stories of Migrant Struggles and Perseverance

30. I was 18 yrs old when our family immigrated to the US in 1973. Marshal Law was declared in 1972 and our priority was to get out of the Country just in case the government closes travel. We had the opportunity to get out and find a better life. However, if the family had a choice, we probably would have stayed if the same opportunities in the US are available in the Philippines.

31. A class friend of mine was a TNT for over a decade and gain his citizenship through marriage. the whole fact that he had lived in fear & paranoia throughout the years is what I considered unjust

32. For those who contribute positively to the community, I gladly support legalization. for those who break the law (not just a case of being undocumented but do wrong like fraud, abuse etc) we must distance ourselves because these bad eggs make it hard for the good ones to be supported.

33. I was born in the Philippines, but I left when I was 1 year old. Coming to the US has led me to become very ignorant of Filipino issues, especially since my family settled in Charlotte NC where few Filipinos are lower class/ undocumented. For the most part, I consider my family to be very fortunate and unaware of issues surrounding the difficulties of long petitions and scares of deportation.

34. Arrived in US with an H2B Visa. 40 years old. petitioned as a caregiver, denied by immigration due to low salary.

35. My family came to the US from the PI in 1970s to escape Martial Law and ensure a better future for their children.

36. I arrived in 2002 I was only 13 years old. We lived in Vallejo and also struggled to find housing and employment for my parents

37. My father came in the mid 70s separated from my brother and mother who later came in the 80s. dealing with family separation & everyday immigrant life in America its proven a tough daily struggle for my family.

38. I arrived in 2004. it was very different from what i was used to in the Philippines

39. I came to the US in 2002. i was 9 years old then. My experience was in a way, a struggle. The graft between Filipino American and Filipino immigrants was present in my generation.

40. I left the Philippines when I was just 3, lived in California till I was 7, but went back home to live. I came back to the US in 1991, I have been here since. My experience was difficult to say the least. I felt a loss … and it was difficult to fit in. My experiences back home have left a hurt that took me years to get over … but the positive side, is that I appreciated all that I learned, my heritage, and the difficulties that my countrymen face each day.

41. I arrived in 2006 when I was 14 years old. I attended high school as one of the few 20-30 Filipinos in a school of 1500 kids (predominantly Hispanic). The Filipino club existed but didn’t have as many members and it was hard to find other Filipino friends who are migrants like me.

42. My family is currently separated. My father and sister are still in the Philippines due to the slow processing of visas while my mother and brother are here with me.

43. I arrived in the US Nov. 29, 2009, having no problem arriving in the US, processing no hustle. but all the worst happen and i notice when i arrived. i was victimize by the trafficked offenders

44. I arrived in 2004 when i was 19, had to come to reunite with family

45. I arrived in the US about 7 years ago on a tourist visa which 2 later changed to a student visa. i was homesick, felt disconnected & isolated from friends and family

46. I came to this country at the age of 3. we crossed over from Canada. My Mom & I were petitioned by my dad to come to the US, but the wait was too long, so he moved to Canada and he bought us there and we stayed for a few months then we went to the US and were TNT for 3 years until our US petition family came through.

47. I came here 6-7 years ago. I was around 9 or 10. My experience was challenging but I adjusted.

48. 20 it is hard to adjust. Adjust everything.

49. When my dad came to the US in 94, a lot of pressure was on him. All alone with two kids back at home, a place to rent, food to eat etc. The first few months weren’t really clicking actually. Dad spent the day at hospitals and moonlighted at nursing homes. Despite all the difficulties the yoke on his shoulders, everything became stable after a few months. I am so thankful and blessed for that. My dad’s a hero. 🙂

50. Living a life in here is not that easy either, but you got to have more opportunities here than in Philippines.

51. My uncle moved here from the Philippines. The process took a long time for him to be able to live here and his starting job is not enough to support his family.

52. Feb 13 1999 when I arrived at 63 years old. It’s hard to stay especially because there’s difficulty in language and job search

53. Arrived may 6 2011. Had difficulty because my son who’s a special child was denied visa because he aged out

54. I have been here in CNMI, a US Territory, for 17 years. I entered here legally, documented and at present still in legal status. I and the rest of the 10K Filipino migrant workers here ay pinagdadamutan to qualify as permanent resident because of the Non-Resident Workers Act of 1983 in CNMI and the recent Transitional Workers Program. For most of us, who have been here more than decade, we are still being considered temporary guest workers. We have been the backbone of the CNMI economy and the needed workforce to economic recovery.

55. I work here in cnmi since 2004 only however me and most of our foreign contract workers here really help in building the community of cnmi fro the longest time others had stayed here and work most half of their life. We are seeking for fair treatment from US government to apply the same requirements for a foreign worker to apply for same visa and status being implemented on US mainland and other territories …

56. I came to CNMI 1984 and end my employment with case that my employer run away with out paying my six month salary, but then I change my employer 1985 and work as Asst. General manager and change again 1995 up to present. i came to Saipan when i was 29 yrs of age. They count me as cheap labor or second choice. Every time they will re-new my contract I have to pray to God that I need to continue to have my job, or else my family will supper poverty in the Philippines. My Son and daughter that was born here they have US passport wondering if we will be back to Philippines they will be having the same faith of my poverty and hardship of life.


58. I am Blessed to be born Filipino and the same time Blessed to be a U.S Citizen.


60. Arrived in 1984, when i was 24. Entry application process was not pleasant, but once I got here, it was good.

61. Arrived in US in 1987, I am 52 years old. I really worked hard to get my US medical license and training due to the low quota for foreign medical graduates.

62. Arrived 1987 age 11 Displace / no self identity

63. I came to Saipan, CNMI when I was 23, way back in 1996, work and live here for 16 years, I now have a husband who is also a Filipino who works here since 1995 and we have an 11 year old daughter. After working, living and having a family in a place we called home for the past 16 years we are still Guest here, our employment contracts are being renewed every year no insurance or retirement benefits, we are still Guest workers, no voice on government issues no representations for we don’t get to vote. Even after the Immigration here were Federalized by the US government since 2009, we were left without a permanent residency status. I hope this survey will help all of the Long Term Foreign Workers in the CNMI to get permanent residency status once and for all. Thank you.

64. Saipan is the same as the US MAINLAND Improved all immigration status to all legal workers here in the CNMI (saipan)

65. I come to saipan 1997 i was 23 years old. i am long term contract worker in saipan US with US child and we have no voice and right to voice out our rights. we are abused by local people in many area and employer

66. I arrive here in 2000 and until now I am here working as alien worker, what we need now is legalization of our stay …. as the federal takes over locals wants to get rid of all of us, alien workers … I do have 2 labor cases which i was awarded and won but until now I didn’t get any penny from it. I am working with an abusive employer now, no holiday pay … The employer never treated as an equal person because I am JUST AN ALIEN WORKER ….

67. I am living and working here in the CNMI legally for 18 years now, I pay taxes, I manage to send remittances to my family in the Philippines and pay my monthly dues here, the economic situation now is unbearable due to the high cost of living. I worry for the future of my family for I don’t have savings and retirement benefits, our employment contract does not include retirement benefits and the Government here do not have programs to cover such benefits for contract workers. I hope that the US Government will see our situation and give all of US Permanent Residency.

68. I arrived last year August 3, 2011, I am 30 years old, I am trying to get a job but its really hard.

69. I arrive in I do not remember. I was a couple months. Went through the same problems in the Philippines.

70. I arrived since year 2000. I am 23 years old. my experience coming to the U.S. is so hard.

71. Arrived in the US at 10 years old in 2000. US is one tough county to live in.

72. I came to the US in 1984 when i was 16 years old. came by myself with no problem what so ever. I went to school. There was a lot of jobs in those time. Easy to get in not like to a company not like right now.

73. Arrive in US — 1998. I worked hard and had a good education to enable me to come and had the opportunities to work in US.

74. In 1992, I came to the US as a tourist. I met the love of my life in 1993. Then got married and became a US citizen.

75. Arrived 1997, I was 11 yrs old. It was cold because it was Christmas time. Everything was bigger portion such as food.

76. 1991 came in as H1 Visa under petition by Victor Valley Hosp. Took and passed licensure exam my kids and my husband are citizens. A lot of hardships but life is good.


Stories of Migrant Hardship Related to Work

77. I arrived in 2004, at 14. I felt much alienation, necessity to assimilate, I felt displaced. At the same time, I learned to build a home in the places I’ve migrated. There was much struggle, but with the help of family and a community, I was able to find my place. I would like to help others find their place and understand their situation as migrant workers.

78. I know a number of Filipinos who came here on a tourist visa with the intention of staying here permanently to look for a job. They continue to live here extremely exploited by many of their compatriots. They do not complain because of fear that they be reported to immigration. They need education of their labor rights as well as get organized to support the legalization of the undocumented.

79. I arrived in Los Angeles with my 2 other siblings. We were to be reunited with our parents who have been working in Los Angeles for a year and a half. I was 12 years old at that time. It was very difficult for me to adjust–it took 2 years. Even when I was already reunited with my parents, I was still not able to see them a lot because they were working multiple jobs. Also, unlike in the Philippines, I did not have my other family relatives near me to help my siblings and I. It was the first time I experienced bullying in school, being called racist and derogatory names.

80. I migrated the US in 1971 as a documented legal resident under the US 3rd Preference Visa program for professionals. As such, I personally have not experienced any problems regarding my residence status here. However, I have known (and have been associated with) a great number of California-based Filipinos who were undocumented and have suffered living in the shadows of society, when all they wanted was to work and have a better life for themselves and/or their families. By & large, these people were law-abiding, peace-loving and tax-paying residents, and they deserve all the support we can give them.

81. I arrive in 2002 with my 2 children and I was 26 years old back then. Coming here, I was scared of what life here in the US would mean for me, but I have hopes for opportunity and better life condition compared to the Philippines. As the years gone by and 10 years later, I know now, what means to live in the US. Stressful, working 2-3 jobs, lack of jobs, high standard of living and being a single mother now, I am more scared. Although my hopes are intact but I know this can only happen if people work together so we can have better opportunities and greater life if both US and Philippine governments address and respond to the basic needs of the people for job, food, education, social services, housing and health.

82. My family on both sides came to the US from the Philippines using different means. One side, via US Navy, and the other through an engineer exchange program through Nigeria, to Italy, then finally the US. Both of my grandmothers were in the healthcare field, one a private care domestic worker taking care of private clients and another an RN in a convalescent hospital. One grandfather was a Lt. Commander in the US Navy and the other became a butcher until his retirement.

83. My mother attended vocational school to become and LVN while my father worked in a grocery store for 20 years before going back to school to get his AIT license and became an administrator at a sub-acute hospital.

84. Am a 49y/o Filipino, arrived US last 2003, decided to stay and work, i just lost my job last 23 April thru e-verify.

85. I migrated with my mother and brother (though my brother was already a US citizen because he was born in the US) from the Philippines to the US when I was 6-years-old. Originally, my mother had a work visa, but we became undocumented for two years when she could no longer afford to pay for it. We became permanent legal residents in 2007 after my mother married an American citizen.

86. Filipino domestic workers and trafficked workers are grossly exploited and oppressed by recruitment agencies in the Philippines and the US as well as stringent laws that limit the workers rights. We face such problems everyday. Their rights should be asserted not just through laws or legislations but also through parliament of the streets. But the workers should know about their rights and they should get organized in order to fight a hard battle.

87. My mom left abroad when I was 5 and my brother was 6 months. She was desperate to find a better future for her children. For nine years, she worked in Saudi Arabia and US until she was able to petition us. I was 13 when I came to the US and my brother was 9. The process of our kinship is still taking shape.

88. Came to the U.S. in 2004 and i was 37 y/o. i was fortunate to have had a working visa thus was able to go home to see my family. however, hearing the other stories of fellow Filipinos who were not as fortunate as i was, i was moved to be more involved in organizing fellow domestic workers

89. February 13, 1999 when I came, 63 years old, it was very hard to stay, especially because of the different language I had to speak at work.

90. My family and i were undocumented for 15 years. my parents worked jobs that no one wanted, like being a caregiver, working at burger king, janitor, and delivering pizza. my family are not criminals, and we deserve a livelihood too!

91. Right after I arrived in July 4, 2007. I started working as a caregiver. It was a tough job, like I had to assist a stroked client, from bed to wheelchair and back. We didn’t have a caregiver room, we had to sleep on the floor of the living room. There are a lot of undocumented workers only receiving minimum wage,

92. Having one of my uncles be forced back to the Philippines, because his job found out her was an undocumented worker

93. It’s hard finding opportunities for work. it seems like the priority goes to white people

94. I came here in the U.S. when I was 7 years old. I am 19 now and stil waiting for a pending petition. My mom is working under the table at an unnecessary par to help me out, and try to survive in this country with out papers

95. 1994 was the year our family immigrated to the US. i was 12 years old. it was hard for our family because parents worked a lot and did not have time for us. We were separated from our family in the PI

96. I arrived here Dec 12, 2007. I am 39 y/o. i experienced hardship when i came her in the US because i applied for waiter but our agency out me in dishwasher position.

97. My brother is currently here working as a front desk rep at a hotel. he is on a tourist visa & trying to stay & get citizenship. he is working to support his two children in the Philippines. he works hard & only makes $8/hr

98. I arrived year 2006 & so far still working with the same family

99. Arrived first time in 1999 with tourist visa (had multiple entry 10-year tourist visa). I was 15 when I first came, with my mom. Went back to Philippines to finish high school and college. But my mom went back to US in 2000 and stayed. I went back and forth 5 more times (6 months to 1 year each time) to accompany mom, until a community organization petitioned me under working visa in 2008.

100. The first 2 visits (1999 & 2002) were purely for vacation. In 2004, I just graduated from college so I tried looking for a job as graphic artist (finished Fine Arts in the Philippines) but had no luck so went back to Philippines after 6 months. The following trip in 2006, I was resolved to get a job even if not related to the course I finished. Worked at a Discount Store as cashier (under the table) and after 4 months, boss deducted from my salary, accused me of taking money and had me arrested and sent to jail for a night (got arrested not for accusation but for “trespassing” and “resisting arrest” because I demanded back for deducted salary). Boss sold store to a different owner 3 weeks after. Worked at another discount store after a month but had to resign to go back to Philippines.

101. Went back to US in the middle of 2007. Worked for a publication and resigned expecting I had to go back to Philippines by end of year. But extension was approved so had to look for another job. Worked as babysitter until my return to Philippines middle of 2008.

102. Went back to US again towards end of 2008. Community organization petitioned me as graphic artist under working visa.

103. People sometimes mistake me for Chinese 🙁

104. My parents were both immigrants and worked in the nursing field with special needs. They were only in their 20s when they made the trip

105. I arrive here in U.S. just this year (march 4, 2012) . I am 15 years old when I came here in U.S. As for now i am just exploring the place, because i will not be able to work considering my age .

106. Filipinos are hard working and motivated. As a minority in the us, my family has experienced the struggle of obtaining the American dream.

107. My family came to find jobs in America and have been working since to keep up the living situation as well as support family back home

108. Arrived 2007. worked with a Filipino employer, exploited, abused (unpaid work hours, humiliated, verbally abused)

109. Abuse – working for long hours but paid unpaid

110. I used to work as a Stewardess for an American carrier (TWA) based in Hong kong. Unfortunately, TWA closed the domicile in HKG and whoever wants to continue their employment with TWA, the company will sponsor them. Later on my working visa was converted to permanent resident. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I continued flying for TWA and at the same time I was able to finish my Masters at the University of Kansas in 1974. During those times being an immigrant is not as bad as it is now.

111. Too .yes i have a dream to have good decent future and good wage too but till i am working still $5 dollar one hour !

112. I’ve seen many Filipinos work hard in bad conditions and not complain about it.

113. Parents immigrated here in late 1980s. Father (deceased): wanted as a postal worker (mail hander/ laborer) and a US navy man. mother: position in Mervyn’s and ended up as account payable payroll specialist (but unemployed at the moment)

114. Experience struggle as a caregiver, especially if your employer is mean. You just have to endure

115. 2003 was hard to find a job under qualified for the job you thought you can do it overqualified for the job they are willing to hire you.

Stories Related to Racism and Discrimination

116. Start from scratch and RACISM.

117. My father moved here from the island of Samar at 16 years old (1965), he was a domestic worker who took care of other people’s children. He survived by babysitting, working in the Alaskan fish canneries, going to school and working with his host family. Eventually his student visa expired and he joined the US Army. After 10 years of the US army, he realized he didn’t like the pressure and strict lifestyle, but above all disliked the racial discrimination. He got an honorable discharge. He went back to the Philippines on vacation and eventually met my mom, and they were married and he brought her to the US. After the Army he struggled to find a job and was laid off from a factory job at an airplane company, and became a janitor for the next two decades until he retired. he petitioned all of his brothers and sisters, and tried to help them get jobs in the US. but they were mostly restaurant workers and caregiver jobs. Today, he is retired and is trying to live the American dream with a house and family. but i cant help to notice that he feels bitter about the hardship he experienced and leaving his family for so many years. But he does feel accomplished and happy that he was able to help his immediate family.

118. I arrived U.S, in July 4th, 2007. I was 62 years old at that time. I started working as a caregiver in July 15, 2007. In 3 1/2 months of working they discriminated my age and paid me below the minimum wage. It was $60.00 for 12 hours. No bedroom for the caregivers. we slept on the floor of the living room.

119. Some discrimination and struggles

120. Since arriving here, I’ve noticed how differently people treat who are “new” & have the accent, vs folks who are of color but have been here a while or who were born here, vs white people. When I had just arrived I experienced more discrimination compared to now that I’ve somewhat assimilated. Still, even years after, I have still experienced discrimination (not as bad as when I was new, or maybe I just got used to it).

121. I came to the US in the middle of 2009 and I was 16. I was thankful that I got reunited with my family especially with my mom after being separated in 7 years. I had a difficult time adjusting at first. While I was going to school, I experienced discrimination during my first semester. I wanted to go back to the Philippines so badly because I felt alienated. During my 2nd year, second semester in college, I decided to stop school and work as a caregiver and help contribute to the family financially. At the summer of 2011 I went to an exposure and learned the stories of other migrants.

122. Arrived in 1957 – not much problem of discrimination at that time. came here ate age 24 years old. Held good & high position in nursing.

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