Filipino immigration

2011-02-13 08:33:06

Because the United States had acquired the Philippines as a colonial territory in 1898, Filipinos were in some ways privileged immigrants during the 20th century and second in number only to Chinese among Asian immigrants to the United States. They were third in Canada, behind Chinese and East Indian immigrants. In the U.S. census of 2000 and the Canadian census of 2001, 2,364,815 Americans and 327,550 Canadians claimed Filipino descent. The largest concentrations of Filipinos in the United States are in California, Hawaii, and Chicago, Illinois, with significant areas of settlement in cities with large naval bases, including San Diego, California; Bremerton, Washington; Jacksonville, Florida; and Charleston, South Carolina. More than half of Filipino Canadians live in Ontario, with a large settlement also in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Philippines is a country of 7,100 islands occupying 115,000 square miles in the South China and Philippine Seas between 5 and 19 degrees north latitude. Nearby countries include Taiwan to the north and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south. Most of the population, an estimated 82,841,518, resides on 11 major mountainous islands that take up the greatest part of the country’s land area. About 83 percent of the population practices Roman Catholicism; 9 percent, Protestantism; and 5 percent, Islam. Malay peoples indigenously inhabited the Philippine Islands when Magellan landed there with his Spanish fleet in 1521. Spain governed the islands until 1898, when they were ceded to the United States following the Spanish-American War. A nationalist uprising broke out the following year but was successfully suppressed by U.S. forces by 1905. From 1941 to the end of World War II in 1945, the islands were occupied by Japan. In 1946, the Philippines was granted independence, and a republican government was formed. Between 1972 and 1981, President Ferdinand Marcos (first elected in 1965) ruled the country by martial law. Marcos was deposed in 1986, leading to significant political destabilizing under President Corazon Aquino. Between the 1965 election of Marcos and his 1986 overthrow, some 300,000 Filipinos immigrated to the United States. Communist and Muslim insurgents launched a coup in 1989 that was defeated with help from the United States. A Muslim region in the south was eventually granted autonomy in 1996, ending the ongoing rebellion.
Some of the earliest Filipino immigrants to North America were sailors who left their ships in New Orleans, Louisiana, during the 19th century. The number of immigrants remained small, however, until the first decade of the 20th century. With provisions of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) and the Gentlemen’s Agreement (1907) largely excluding Chinese, Japanese, and Korean laborers, there was high demand for cheap agricultural labor in Hawaii and California. In 1906, the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association began to actively recruit in the Philippines, and by the mid-1920s, there was a large voluntary workforce seeking admission. By 1931, 113,000 Filipino workers had come to Hawaii. About 39,000 eventually returned to the Philippines, but more than 18,000 eventually migrated to California. In addition to these, some 27,000 Filipinos immigrated directly to the mainland, most hired under the padrone system of labor supply.Most Filipino immigrants were young men, and as late as 1940, the ratio of Filipino men to women was still 3.5 to 1. With the rise in unemployment during the depression, the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 limited Filipino immigration to 50 per year. As important, with the Philippines being made a commonwealth and destined for independence, Filipinos were reclassified from nationals to aliens.
A second period of immigration, particularly associated with military developments, occurred between 1946 and 1964. Filipino Americans had served with distinction during World War II, helping substantially in driving the Japanese from the Philippines. The War Brides Act of 1946 enabled American soldiers to bring some 5,000 Filipina brides to the United States following World War II. The Military Bases Agreement of 1947 permitted the United States to make use of 23 sites in the Philippines and thus to maintain a formidable presence there into the 1990s. Exemptions to the Tydings-McDuffie Act enabled the United States to recruit more than 22,000 Filipinos into the navy (between 1944 and 1973), most of whom were assigned to work in mess halls or as personal servants. Exemptions also enabled some 7,000 additional Filipino agricultural workers into the country.
A new phase of immigration began with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which both eliminated race as a factor in the selection process and classified immediate relatives of U.S. citizens as special immigrants, thus admitted outside the annual quota of 20,000. The significant family reunification numbers were augmented in 1974 when the Philippines instituted an ongoing overseas employment program. This led to an average of more than 600,000 Filipino workers migrating each year, though most of these went to the countries of the Middle East and East Asia. A large percentage of those immigrating to the United States were highly trained professionals, especially doctors and nurses. Emigration to Canada remained small in part because Canadian immigration policy encouraged migration only of professional and skilled workers.
As in most developing countries, worker migration was seen as beneficial in both easing unemployment and increasing remittances to the Philippines. In 1995, for instance, remittances totaled $4.87 billion, or about 2.5 percent of the gross national product, and the amounts remained high into the first decade of the 21st century. Between 1991 and 2002, more than 600,000 Filipinos immigrated to the United States.
It is difficult to arrive at precise figures for Filipino immigration to Canada. Not only were Filipinos grouped under the category “Other Asians” until 1967, but they also followed a distinctive pattern of immigration with no precedents in the Chinese, Japanese, or Asian Indian communities. There were virtually no immigrants prior to World War II, and fewer than 100 by 1964. Beginning in 1965, however, a steady immigration began, which was accelerated by the new immigration regulations of 1967, which included a points system that gave preference to skilled workers in high demand areas, such as health care. Between 1971 and 1992, total immigration from the Philippines placed them in the top 10 of source countries, and between 1994 and 2002, the country ranked from second to sixth each year, with a total of about 110,000 immigrants. Unlike other Asian groups, most Filipino immigrants were women who came for job opportunities in medical fields, especially nursing, and clerical areas. Although the gender differential gradually became more balanced, by the 1990s Filipina women still composed about 60 percent of the immigrant population.
Filipino immigration
Prisoners taken by the United States during the Filipino insurrection, 1898–1902. By 1930, there were more than 63,000 Filipinos in Hawaii, having largely replaced Chinese, Japanese, and Korean workers banned from entry into the United States. (National Archives)
Another difference between Filipino and other Asian immigration is that most early immigrants came first from the United States, where their relationship afforded special opportunities for access to the country. Sometimes unable to remain in the United States, they learned that visas were available for skilled technicians in Canada, particularly in Ontario. By the early 1970s, they were bringing family members and encouraging others to emigrate directly from the Philippines. As Canadian immigration policy in the 1980s gave special weight to family reunification, more Filipinos took advantage of the provisions. During the 1980s and 1990s, Filipino immigrants were less likely to choose Toronto, though it remained the foremost Filipino community in Canada with a population of 140,000 in 2001. Vancouver’s was second, with more than 60,000. Of 232,670 Filipino immigrants in Canada in 2001, about 96 percent arrived after 1970.