A Short List to Read and Learn about Filipino/a Migrant Workers in the US

This list is not exhaustive, rather its responsive. This short list collates some resources, both academic and journalistic, that can help you learn more about the conditions of Filipino/a American migrant workers in the United States (US).

In my current research project, I am looking closely at the lives of Filipino/a migrant workers in the American care industry, specifically at the narratives and experiences of Filipino/a caregivers to the elderly in the Bay Area.

On the lives of Filipino/a Caregivers:

In the list below, you’ll find resources about Filipino/a migrant workers in other American industries so you can see the patterns across the experiences of migrant workers.

Filipino/a Migrant Workers Across American Labor Industries:

Most importantly, and despite these difficult work conditions, Filipino/a migrant workers have and continue to create resistance strategies and build political power collectively. Here are organizations who are aiming to do critical political organizing with Filipino/a migrant workers.

Organizations Supporting Filipino/a Migrant Workers in the US:

In honor of this year’s Filipino American History Month, October 2020, I’m putting together this list to acknowledge the important work of so many Filipino/s migrant workers in the care industry, especially under the COVID-19 pandemic. But also, to draw a throughline between the thousands of Filipinos who have migrated to US to work in various industries: agriculture, education, nursing, etc.

On the History and Production of Filipino/a Migrant Workers:

  • Bonus, R., 2000. Locating Filipino Americans: Ethnicity and the Cultural Politics of Space. Temple University Press.
  • Choy, C., 2009. Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino-American History. Duke University Press.
  • Fajardo, K.B., 2011. Filipino Crosscurrents: Oceanographies of Seafaring, Masculinities, and Globalization. U of Minnesota Press.
  • Francisco-Menchavez, V., 2018. The Labor of Care: Filipina migrants and transnational families in the digital age. University of Illinois Press.
  • Mabalon, D.B., 2013. Little Manila is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American Community in Stockton, California. Duke University Press.
  • Manalansan IV, M.F., 2003. Global Divas: Filipino gay men in the diaspora. Duke University Press.
  • Padios, J.M., 2018. A Nation on the Line: Call Centers as Postcolonial Predicaments in the Philippines. Duke University Press
  • Poblete, J., 2014. Islanders in the Empire: Filipino and Puerto Rican Laborers in Hawai’i. University of Illinois Press.
  • Rodriguez, R.M., 2010. Migrants for export: How the Philippine state brokers labor to the world. U of Minnesota Press.
  • Tadiar, N.X., 2009. Things fall away: Philippine historical experience and the makings of globalization. Duke University Press.

As a responsive list, I’d be so happy to update this short list with what YOU think is essential. Please leave a comment with your recommendations below!


Filipino Frontliners and the Cost of COVID-19

On a day where COVID-19 positive Donald Trump disregards medical caution to quarantine at a hospital for a motorcade to “show strength”, I can only think of how selfish and barbaric he is to do so. When thousands of Filipino nurses who have worked on COVID-19 frontlines since the beginning of this year have lost their lives by working so hard to fight this pandemic.

In a news story entitled, “California’s Filipino American nurses are dying from COVID-19 at alarming rates,” Mercury News reporter Fiona Kelliher states that in California, 20% of nurses are Filipino and Filipino American. Of the CA nurses who have died of COVID-19, 70% are Filipino. Nationally, Filipino nurses who have died from COVID-19 number at 30%.

I have Filipino cousins, family friends, close friends, comrades who are nurses. They number in the thousands. Their positions as frontline workers are by design, a migration trajectory with historical precedent and a continued sustained stream of laborers. They have families in the Philippines, in the US, around the world, who depend on them.

To say that I’m devastated is an understatement.

Caregivers, Lend Us Your Story

If you are a Filipino caregiver (anywhere in the United States), please fill out this form so we can contact you to schedule an interview over the phone or Zoom. With your participation in the interview and survey, you will receive a $20 gift card.

If you can pull together 1 or more caregivers to have a group interview, you can earn an additional $10 gift card.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Valerie Francisco-Menchavez at vfm@sfsu.edu


The Traffic in Filipino Teachers

Rachel Mabe published a longform piece on Oxford American, called “Trafficking in Teachers“. In this piece, she tells the story of Filipino teachers trafficked into the United States as a way to fill the crisis in staffing of teachers all across the US. In this piece she notes that the import of labor, specifically in teachers, has been ever increasing and ever invisible to the mainstream American media.

Mabe looks at the predatory recruitment agencies, and its transnational network between the US and the Philippines, governmental departments in both countries acknowledge that J-1 visas, immigration streams and “task forces” are set up to deal with the current problem. These institutional programs acknowledge that there is prior coordination between governments to facilitate the import of Filipino teachers and, also, the vulnerability of those teachers when they come to the US.

More importantly, this piece lifts up the stories and resilience of Filipino teacher, like Mairi and Aurora, who are in new destination ports like New Mexico and Garland, Texas. The story follows the lives of trafficked teachers and the ways in which they set up their own communities of care and networks of resilience to face the arduous road ahead of fighting to get legal status or justice from their predatory recruiters.

It’s an important article and it echoes the new J-1 Network set up by Migrante USA that seeks to bring together trafficked Filipino workers in the US. It’s imperative that we support these migrant workers and their plight for justice.


A Right to Research

Research has always been a creative project for me. A site and process where I could blend my commitments to activism, collaboration and passions. Community members, activists and students in the Filipino American communities become collaborators in my projects’ directions and designs instead of objects of study. It has been such meaningful work teaching me more than the findings that end up published. More so because collaborative and participatory research requires so much balancing.

Some times the research process has worked out mutually. Other times, academic questions overstep organizations’ goals. Or organizing timelines don’t line up with research timelines.

So it’s a mess.

But it’s a creative mess.

And I love it.

As an academic, I’m challenged to think about sociological questions from the vantage points of movement building first. And then, I can organize the academic riddle around that.

A part of that riddle is the important and often invisible labor of the students I am honored to work with and learn from. My students who I consider collaborators, comrades and friends have helped me disentangle issues in my research that I probably couldn’t have figured out on my own.

And it is my students, who often belong to the Filipino communities I do research with, that come with innovative and creative solutions to the messes I make. For this I’m grateful. The College of Health and Social Sciences wrote a piece about some of the work I do with Kristal Osorio and Elaika Celemen:


Arjun Appadurai once argued that historically excluded peoples and communities should have a right to participate, design, determine and carry out research for the benefit of their collective power. He wrote, “By this I mean the right to the tools through which any citizen can systematically increase that stock of knowledge which they consider most vital to their survival as human beings” (2006).

My commitment to keeping research a right for my community starts with centering Filipina/x/o lives in my thinking, making visible the “stock of knowledge” we already have. And This right to research is often powered by young people, brilliant students and scholars in their own right.


Kapehan with Caregivers

Flyer for Kapehan on Aug 15 at 7:30 PM

On Saturday, join Filipino migrant workers and organizers for coffee or kapehan! PAWIS in San Jose hosts these biweekly events for caregivers to learn about the most up to date changes in laws and work conditions. But they also host a discussion on different topics.

This week they’ve asked me to join them to talk through caregiving under COVID-19 and what implications it might have on them. Join us by clicking on the Facebook event below where you’ll find the Zoom info for our kapehan!


Caregivers in the time of Corona

I created this infographic to make sense of the various articles that have been circulating about Filipino caregivers under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the data I’ve included here is from a pilot study I conducted at SFSU from 2017-2019 on the impacts of caregiving on the physical and mental health outcomes of migrant workers.

I recently shared this with PAWIS (Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants) in the Silicon Valley as a part of my ongoing research collaboration with Filipino workers organizations in the Bay Area and many of them resonate with the initial findings.

Alongside community partners and students, I will be continuing to collect research on the lives and work conditions of Filipino caregivers, especially under COVID-19, in the Fall. If you’re interested in helping out or filling out the survey, please email me at vfm@sfsu.edu.


Ethel Tungohan’s article : https://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/filipino_healthcare_workers_during_covid19_and_the_importance_of_race_based_analysis

Nina Martin and Eunice Yung’s piece on ProPublica:


Mallory Moench in the SF Chronicle:



Transnational Families and Multinational Migrations

In 2018, I had the great privilege attending and participating in a National University of Singapore, Asian Research Institute workshop on Multinational Migrations hosted by brilliant Anju Paul and Brenda Yeoh. Both of whom are scholars who I have read, cited and looked up to for a long time.


At the workshop, I presented a paper looking back at the research I collected when I lived in New York City. In NYC, I observed that so many domestic workers in my study traversed the globe before setting foot in the United States. Their trajectories followed the footsteps of their sisters, cousins, mothers, and friends from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Israel, Canada, Rome, Dominican Republic, way before New York. In this presentation, I thought through who transnational families aren’t just a source of financial support for future migrations, but actually, a repository of information and strategy.

During the workshop, I was able to learn and listen to so many amazing scholars from all over the world who were thinking and writing on emergent multinational migration patterns. It was an amazing experience professionally and now the paper I presented is an article in a special section of Geographical Research! (Email me for a copy if you hit a paywall!)

Screen Shot 2020-07-12 at 9.32.15 PM

The trip to ARI and Singapore was transformative in so many other ways. I was able to wean almost 2-year old Cy. It was one of the first trips I took on my own after having 2 children. I rekindled my love of traveling and getting lost in a new place. And I got to reunite with my cousin, Jamie, and her family who has lived in SG for years. I was able to have dinner with Meg and Ivan, two amazing stars of my book The Labor of Care, who have made a home in SG in the past few years.

It is a trip to remember and this article is a reminder of how my ideas really take me to places I never thought I’d go.


Summer 2020: Final Project Round Up

I endeavor to create a class for my students that will inspire and motivate them to create projects that extend the life of the sociology we learn in class, to the world beyond our class.

Whether that class is in a physical room or online (because The ‘Rona), I have tried my very best to set up a learning process for students to be able to create.

This summer was no different. In my SOC 461 (Ethnic Relations: International Comparisons) summer course, we discussed how race is a social construction that has global consequences. We took up the issues of the novel coronavirus and its affects on Asians and Asian Americans. We engaged with the uprisings to value and defend Black Lives in the US as police violence claimed the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among others. We thought through how these racial narratives had local, national and global consequences. And more importantly, the class tackled how their own race narratives or ideas on race is shaped by international currents on race and ethnicity.

My students chose from a range of projects to demonstrate the concepts and theories they learned in the class and I couldn’t have been more proud of what my brilliant students produced.

A few students produced fascinating videos as medial analysis.

Charlene Maravilla really took to examining her race narrative as Asian American and looked at Asian American representations in the media, its impacts in the US and globally. And more importantly, how it shapes self-formation for Asian Americans.

Carla Naylor did a fascinating project on Jewish representation in popular media and introduced us to the idea of Ashkenormativity as a form of homogenizing the myriad of Jewish ethnicities from all over the world.

Another medium of final project students can choose are blog projects hosted on SFSU ePortfolio.

Mina Hernandez’s projectengaging with the international movement to echo Black Lives Matters activism in the United States was a timely and urgent reckoning about how state violence is not just an American problem, but one that is experience across the globe. And on the basis of the construction of racial and ethnic difference.

Kayleigh Mestrovich’s projecton historicizing anti-Black racism in the US navigates the ways in which anti-Black racism is in the rubric of American history and contemporary American racial order.

Even if teaching summer session right after a pretty brutal Spring semester didn’t seem like the best idea, I am energized from my students amazing projects!


Filipino Caregivers and the Fight against COVID-19

Screen Shot 2020-06-28 at 7.52.36 PM

Rosalie Amacan has her temperature tested by nurse Allyssa Vergara as she arrives at Amato Home, the Fremont care home she runs. Photo: Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle

In a report I co-wrote with Bulosan Center Executive Director, Robyn Rodriguez, and Policy Director, Katherine Nasol, we wrote that the conditions of Filipino caregivers is doubly precarious. The dual crisis of the unregulated caregiving industry and the lack of proper resources towards the fight against COVID-19 put Filipino migrants under great stress and risk.

But the ethic of care that Filipinos in the Bay Area doesn’t just end there.

Filipinos are on the frontlines of battling COVID-19 on so many fronts: in private residences of elderly patients, in care homes and assisted facilities, in hospitals and clinics, in community centers providing basic needs.

Because the concentration of Filipinos in the healthcare industry is so dense, our community, here in the Bay Area, all over the United States and all over the globe, is taking a toll in risk and loss.

Just today, Mallory Moench at the San Francisco Chronicle brings the stories of Filipinos who are caring for their own families and communities to a wider audience.

Part of this story of risk and loss is a narrative of collective power and resilience. This part of Filipinos story under the pandemic, and in fact, under many types of crises (of imperialism, capitalism) is the strength of Filipino networks to stay strong and brace for what’s ahead.


A Mother’s Day Call to Action

The CA Domestic Workers Rights Coalition has heard that SB 1257, The Health and Safety for All Workers Act, will be heard in the Labor Committee on this coming Thursday, May 14!

Help us build visibility and lift your voices in the creative ways to make sure that the Labor Committee sees and feels the domestic worker movement – even if we can’t mobilize to the capitol in-person!

Will you join us for our Week of Action?

Sunday – May 10 – Mother’s Day Digital Action

Tuesday – May 12 – Call In Day – Our goal is to have 500 people make calls to the Labor Committee!

Thursday – May 14 – #MyHealthMyDignity 11am Twitter Chat and 1:30pm Labor Committee Hearing


Filipino Home Care Workers, Unseen Frontliners

There are frontlines that are behind the scenes. And there are workers on those unseen frontlines, who day in and day out, are also fighting the battle against COVID-19. Home care workers are some of those who are doing this work in private homes, in non-hospital settings, in residential care facilities. They, too, are in need of personal protective equipment (PPE). They, too, are contracting COVID-19, and some without health insurance or sick leave afforded to them by their employers.

To highlight these set of essential workers, I collaborated with Bulosan Center‘s Executive Director and Chair of Asian American Studies, Dr. Robyn Rodriguez, and doctoral student in UCD’s Cultural Studies, Katherine Nasol on this brief report (JPG and PDF below).

PDF: Filipino Home Care Workers: Unseen Frontliners and Essential Workers in the COVID-19 Fight

Many home care workers–caregivers to the elderly, home attendants, home health aides, domestic workers and nannies–are all on the frontlines of this pandemic. Because of the particularities of their work places–isolated in private homes without frequent connection to other workers–leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. This was before the pandemic.

In and through the pandemic, the crises on home care workers looms even larger. The Bulosan Center’s brief report on home care workers provides some analysis on the conditions of home care workers and the need for SB 1257  The Health and Safety Act for All Workers is clear.

As we continue to cheer for frontline workers at 7 PM from our stoops and front yards, let’s cheer all of the workers who are battling COVID-19 from various frontlines!