September 11 Digital Archive

To dream the American Dream: Undocumented Filipino workers cry abuse from Filipino employers


To dream the American Dream: Undocumented Filipino workers cry abuse from Filipino employers



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To dream the American Dream: Undocumented Filipino workers cry abuse from Filipino employers

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Anthony D. Advincula

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Filipino Times and Asian Review

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Like most Filipino immigrants, Manny Mendoza* came to the United States hoping to achieve the American dream. But how can he possibly when he only gets paid $2 per hour from his present work?

Mendoza, 42, was a seaman, and jumped ship in Long Beach, California about five years ago. Without proper documents, he was only able to work odd jobs, like mowing lawns and running errands. The only steady job he had then was delivering newspapers early in the morning.

Now in New York City, Mendoza landed a job as a waiter in a small Filipino restaurant in Queens. He shares in a one-bedroom apartment with by four adults and two children.

I accepted $2 per hour because the owner of the restaurantwhos also a Filipinotold me that the tips would more than make up for the pay. But last Saturday, supposedly the best night in the business, the tip pool to be shared by four waiters came to a grand total of $7.00, Mendoza said.

Herman Garcia*, who also doesnt have the proper documents to work, is lucky enough to get $6.50 per hour from loading balikbayan boxes (boxes bound for the Philippines). Since he came to the United States last year, he has had been able to send money to his wife and two sons in the Philippines.

But Garcia, who rents a bed space in Kew Gardens, said he is now very concerned about his health. Considering that there is no limit on the weight of the cargo boxes that he needs to handle daily, such task would certainly wear him down, and the shipping company doesnt provide a health insurance for undocumented workers like him.

I think it would be better for me to go back to the Philippines at the end of this month. The work is so tedious and the pay is way below the minimum wage. I dont have a choice, nor can I demand a raise, because my Filipino employer knows that I dont have proper working documents, he said.

For Gina Ramirez*, who works as a cashier at a small Filipino store in Jamaica, the American dream will remain a dream, unless she wins a lottery.

Ramirez, 25, is also paid way below minimum wage, despite being hard working and competent in her job, and thus has to rush to a second job caring for a 70-year-old lady at night. Her husband is currently jobless, because he, too, lacks the necessary papers.

I miss our place in Cavite (about 15 miles from Manila) where I used to plant vegetables in the backyard. But we cant go back there anymore. We sold our house to finance our papers and trip to New York City. Everything is gone; we have no more house, no garden, no privacy and no money. At least, we have each other, Gina said.

According to Migrante, a New York City-based non-profit organization, there are thousands of reports of abused undocumented Filipino workers by their employers. Unfortunately, the employers are Filipinos, too.

This is a classic sad tale. The employers take advantage of the vulnerability and helplessness of these Filipino workers, because they (employers) know they dont have proper documents, said Cesar Esguerra, a Migrante spokesperson.

The organization, however, assured that there are measures to protect the undocumented workers from any form of abuse in the workplace.

Whether you are a documented or undocumented worker, you must be aware of the laws that protect your rights. Labor concerns are different from immigration, Esguerra added. But the hard part is that no undocumented worker has the courage to come out and report his or her abusive employer. Any Filipino should remember that no one will be used and abused if he knows his rights.

<i>* Not their real names</i>

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“To dream the American Dream: Undocumented Filipino workers cry abuse from Filipino employers,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed March 31, 2023,