Tagalog helpline set up for Filipinos in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES — Filipino Americans in Los Angeles County registered a tremendous surge in population growth, spurring social service agencies to launch Tagalog-language helplines to respond to the needs ranging from citizenship aid to legal services.
The number of Filipinos in LA County grew 26 percent within four years from 2006 to 2010, bringing their ranks to more than 374,285.
“Language barriers continue to limit opportunities for millions of Asian Americans, including Filipinos, impacting their ability to integrate fully into American society or access critical services, such as good jobs, citizenship, voting, healthcare, social services, and the judicial system,” said Stewart Kwoh, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles (AJ-LA) president and executive director.
In a press conference March 16, Kwoh said that while most Filipino immigrants speak English, many nuances of the language and culture still pose barriers to their acculturation process in America.
Kwoh’s agency has been actively involved in important lawsuits fighting for the rights of Filipino Americans. In 2012 it won a lawsuit on behalf of 69 Filipino American employees of Delano Regional Medical Center (Aldon) in what has been reported as the largest settlement for a workplace discrimination in the US. The lawsuit settled for $975,000.
The employees, mostly nurses were prohibited from speaking Tagalog and other Filipino languages under a broad-reaching English-only rule policy that was selectively applied to them.
Kwoh continued that there are more Filipino Americans living in Los Angeles County than in any other county in the United States, and 63 percent of the 374,285 are foreign-born.
AJ-LA released data showing Filipino Americans are the largest Asian American ethnic group in California, numbering almost 1.5 million. Nationally, Filipinos are the second largest Asian American ethnic group, behind Chinese Americans, numbering over 3.4 million.
Citizenship assistance will be one of the top priorities of the new helpline. A 2015 report from the Center for Migration Studies estimates that 85,000 Filipinos in Los Angeles County are eligible for naturalization.
“Tagalog-language services are especially important for reaching this growing community. Between 2006 and 2010, the number of foreign-born Filipinos in Los Angeles County increased by 63 percent, and 21 percent of Filipinos, ages 5 years and older, in Los Angeles County are limited English Proficient.
Many are not aware about accessing services and will suffer in silence rather than seek help,” Kwoh stated.
The Tagalog helpline, which is part of Advancing Justice – LA’s Asian Language Legal Intake Project (ALLIP), will allow Tagalog-speaking individuals seeking assistance to speak with an AJ – LA community advocate in their native language. Callers will also be able to receive assistance in the Hiligaynon and Cebuano.
Advancing Justice – LA has hired a full-time legal advocate to assist callers to the Tagalog helpline. Jeanette Sayno is fluent in Tagalog, as well as the Hiligaynon and Cebuano. Sayno will assist Advancing Justice – LA attorneys in providing services and representation to members of the Filipino community with legal issues.
Sayno said her agency is actively working with the Office of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti to do outreach in the large community of Filipino Americans in the city.
Started in 2002, ALLIP consists of toll-free helplines in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), English, Khmer, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese. The helplines prioritize assistance to low-income community members in the following areas of law: domestic violence and family law, employment, housing, citizenship, and immigration.
It also has full-time community legal advocates serving callers in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), English, Khmer, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese.
Among those who met with the press were Carolyn Kim, Project Director, Asian Language Legal Intake Project, Advancing Justice – LA; Christine Chen, Staff Attorney, Citizenship Project, Advancing Justice – LA; Anthony Ng, program head; Randy Bunao, press relations officer.
The toll-free Tagalog helpline telephone number is (855) 300-2552. The Tagalog helpline is generally staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Callers will be able to reach helpline staff or to leave a voicemail message. When they are unable to speak with a live helpline staff member, callers are encouraged to leave a voicemail message including their name and contact information for prompt follow up.