Won’t You Struggle with Me?
I grew up under the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. Very early in my life, I understood that something was wrong with my country. At nine o’clock every night, just when the moon was full, signaling a bold invitation to children like me to play hide and seek behind the mango and avocado trees in our backyard, a military tank would roll out into the streets of my village. A soldier, perched on top of a military tank holding a megaphone, would order everyone – children and adults, to get inside their houses because it was curfew time. No one was allowed outside any longer, until the next day.
The dictatorship lasted many years. It killed hundreds of thousands of people, burned and destroyed numerous homes and villages, and drove yet hundred thousands more to leave the country and seek a better life elsewhere. Whether by choice or design, it also led me to a life of activism and community organizing, instead of a young girl’s dream of becoming an English teacher or perhaps a writer.
I went on to work with refugees and migrants in Southeast Asia, based in Thailand.
At the time, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Southeast Asia was burning. Indonesia was being torn apart by civil war, East Timor was still in embers, smarting from a brutal fight for independence, Burma continued to be in the grip of an enduring military dictatorship and Montagnard Christians in Vietnam were being driven out of their lands.
By the time I made my way to the United States, I was a wary immigrant shell shocked from all the wars I had witnessed, only to witness one more shocking reality: a “war” on immigrants, people of color, and poor people, right here in the United States.
We have seen it over the years, as one legislative immigration reform proposal after another failed in Congress, as playing politics with immigration became norm, and thousands upon thousands of immigrant families continue to be torn apart from each other by deportation policies, limb by limb, heart by heart: son, mother, daughter, father, in a detention and deportation machinery that does not seem to show any indication of ceasing, nor tempering justice with mercy.
Fighting For A Better Future
I have long admired CIPC because it has managed to successfully pursue the complex mission of combining policy advocacy with community action, and insisted that constituent voice always mattered. CIPC has journeyed with many immigrants on the road to what we now call The California Blueprint. A path-breaking, hope-creating, and doggedly systematic program to expand the benefits of residency and rights to immigrant communities in the state, and gradually dismantle barriers to economic and social justice. This blueprint would not exist without you, our partners in the struggle for hope and courage.
The CA Blueprint is a great weapon against apathy and inertia. Its paradoxical effect is to drive us to do more rather than rest on our laurels as a state. Therefore from One California, to Driver’s Licenses, to Health for All, to the TRUST Act, to many other efforts that are now laws, we remain deeply committed to an ambitious immigrant justice agenda that will keep California moving forward.
As CIPC celebrates its 20th year, I hope you’ll join us in this enduring struggle to continue to mine the best in us. Whatever the outcome of the upcoming elections may be, the courage and tenacity that our communities and our movement have shown, will hopefully tide us over through the best and worst of times.
Because if not us, who? And if not now, when?
Executive Director, California Immigrant Policy Center