Ciana David

Post 1965 Filipino Immigration

            The passage of the Immigration Act of 1965 played a very important role in Filipino immigration.  Due to the act, there was a dramatic increase in the United States Filipino population. The Immigration Act of 1965 made this change in demographics possible because it had abolished national-origin quotas that had previously hindered migration from foreign countries such as the Philippines.  The act had enabled Filipinos to be an emerging Asian ethnic group in the United States, because Filipinos are now the second most populous Asian group in America next to the Chinese.  Marcela Duff, was just one of many Filipino immigrants who decided to leave the Philippines as soon as the act had come into play in 1965. Although there are many more Filipinos in the United States today than there was before the act, the Filipinos that made the journey to America had to deal with the problematic issue of racial discrimination.  Filipinos also dealt with trying to stay true to their cultural background, while having a sense of belonging, were other factors that troubled many immigrant families.  Some Filipinos even undergone discrimination within their own ethnic group, because of tension between first and second generation Filipinos. However, in areas with dense Filipino populations, immigrants did not experience the discrimination, and the identity crisis to the extent of the Filipinos that had moved to areas with very few Filipinos.  Filipinos like Marcela Duff that live in areas such as the Bay Area specifically Daly City, encountered a homeland away from the homeland, because they could still connect with many other Filipinos.   The Immigration Act of 1965 opened the doors for many Filipinos to migrate to the United States and make new lives for themselves, but it had also opened the doors for Filipinos to experience the true reality of life in America.

The Immigration Act of 1965 enabled millions of Filipinos to make the United States their new home.  In the height of the Civil Rights Movement, President Lyndon B. Johnson had signed a bill that drastically changed the admittance laws for immigrants.  The act also known as the Hart-Cellar Act  abolished the national-origins quota system that had regulated the ethnic composition of immigration in fair proportion to each groups’ existing presence in the population.  With the act, priority was given to families, so that immigrants could sponsor family members under certain conditions.  Priority was now given to family members to U.S. citizens, and permanent residents so they could sponsor the following types of immigrants in this order of these preferences:

  1. Unmarried children under 21 years of age of U.S. citizens
  2. Spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents
  3. Professionals, scientists, and artists "of exceptional ability"
  4. Married children over 21 years of age and their spouses and children of U.S. citizens
  5. Siblings and their spouses and children of U.S. citizens
  6. Workers in occupations with labor shortages
  7. Political refugees (

Preferences such as these made migration to the United States far less difficult than it had been in previous years. With new provisions set in place, many immigrants from Latin American and Asia took advantage of these new laws and came to the U.S. in record numbers.  Many of these new immigrants were from the Philippines.  From the Philippines alone there were 1, 456, 800 immigrants that had arrived in America since the act had been approved. In 1965 Marcela Duff and many other Filipinos left their homelands as soon as they could for a life in California.  She made the move to America as soon as she was sponsored by her husband, and when she had the means to do so, she was able to sponsor all five of her children to make the journey across the Pacific (Duff).  Like most Asians, Filipinos primarily chose to migrate to one of five states in America.  The most popular states for Asians were California, New York, Hawaii, Texas, and Illinois.  The 1965 Immigration Act changed the lives many Filipinos, because it allowed them to make lives for themselves in the United States.

            After making the move to the United States Filipinos had to adjust to life in a new world. Many immigrant Filipinos have to deal with being different from the rest of society.  Living in a white dominated country left many immigrants and different ethnic groups to feel a sense of exclusion, because they were now a minority.  Making the move from a country where everyone shares the same language and traditions, to a place diverse in cultures made many Filipino feel out of place.  Being non-white in the United States, many Filipinos experienced racial discrimination by people who were not of their race. Filipinos often dealt with non-Filipinos calling them racist names such as chinks, gooks, or japs.” Often times, non-Asian groups would lump all Asians as being one in the same. However, it is not only immigrant Filipinos who find it difficult to blend into a American culture, second generation Filipinos struggle with it as well. According to the author Yen Le Espiritu of Home Bound: Filipino American Lives Across Cultures, Communities, and Countries say that:

Filipino immigrant children thus live with paradoxes.  They feel strong symbolic loyalty to the Philippines, but they know very little about it and have little contact with their parents and other adults who might educate them about it.  They feel pressured to become like “Americans,” but their experiences as racialized subjects leave them with an uneasy relationship with both Filipino and U.S. culture.  They display the visible markers of assimilation yet remain ferociously nationalist.  Their case thus demonstrates the impossibility both of complete assimilation within U.S. society and of a return to the Philippines for these youths.  In the end, for many second-generation Filipino Americans, here is home-at least for now.  They have claimed this space is theirs. (Espiritu 204)

Like many other Filipinos, Marcela and her family had to deal with how they are perceived by non-Filipinos.  Her family tried to walk the line of being up to date on American fashions and events at work and school, while keeping to their ethnic traditions in the presence of people of their background.  Filipino-Americans and immigrants have a constant struggle in America with trying to assimilate to American culture, and staying true to their own roots.

Filipinos not only find it difficult to fit in with the American society but, they often times find it difficult fitting in their own ethnic group. There are often clashes between first and second generation Filipinos.  When first arriving to the United States many Filipinos feel as though they would be welcomed by other Filipinos with open arms. However, that is not always the case.  Newly immigrated Filipinos often experience discrimination from other Filipinos that have been in the U.S. longer.  Many Filipinos experience overt racism,” which is a term used to explain how there is racism amongst individuals of the same ethnicity (Espiritu 183). Second generation Filipinos deemed the newly immigrated as Fresh Off the Boat” because their style of dress, and accents. Many second generation Filipinos are very territorial, and look down upon other Filipinos who are not American” as they are.  They had the unfortunate belief that they were better than the new immigrants, and they would often harass newcomers to help them fit in with their American friends.  Filipino immigrants who moved to America perhaps knew that they would experience racism from people of different racial backgrounds but, they probably did not expect discrimination from people of their own race.

            Although Filipino immigrants had gone through many hardships in the United States many Filipinos were able to find a home away from home.  In densely Filipino populated communities such as the Bay Area, Filipinos are living comfortably.  Daly City has the highest concentrated Filipino population outside of the Philippines.  The mayor Mike Guingona himself is a Filipino-American who is proud of his Philippine background.

In most Philippine towns, people go to the plaza to chat and get caught up with the news. Whether it is to eat, shop, meet friends, or simply gripe, Serramonte Center is where Filipinos in Daly City, Calif., congregate. For Filipino Americans, the Serramonte Center is that plaza in a city that is now home to the largest concentration of Filipinos outside of Manila? Over the past two decades, Filipino immigrants have flocked to Daly City, transforming the bedroom community into a mini-metropolis with a distinctly Pacific flavor. About eight miles from San Francisco's downtown, Filipino restaurants dot the city's shopping strips. Bagoong, tinapa, daing, kamote, and kamoteng kahoy-staple foods in rural Philippines-are readily available in dozens of Oriental stores. Pilipino songs blare from music stores (Eljera 1996).

  In this area Filipino immigrants did not have to give up many familiar aspects of home.  The Bay Area is a place where Filipinos can openly speak their language, and express themselves to others.  There are many grocery stores, restaurants, and churches where Filipinos can still connect to their homeland roots.  Unlike other areas Filipinos are not likely to feel a sense of exclusion because they are a minority.

 According to the recent Census update, Asian and Pacific Islanders make up 51.6 percent of the population. This number makes Daly City one of the first cities in Northern California where Asian Americans are the majority (Lim).

 For Marcela Duff, migrating to the United States was a very positive experience.  She recalls that residing in the Bay Area enabled her to support her five children and give them the luxuries of America, while keeping them grounded to their Filipino roots.  Living in the Bay Area allowed for her children to be around people who were just like them, because many of their classmates were also newcomers from the Philippines (Duff).  The area had so many other Filipinos that Marcela did not feel like a minority, because she was able to find comfort in those who were like her.  Places such as the Bay Area make it possible for Filipinos to have the best of both worlds, because they can have the advantages of American life, while feeling comfortable in their own skin.

            The Immigration Act of 1965 made it possible for many Filipinos to migrate to the United States, and experience the ups and downs of living life in a new country.  The Act of 1965 created many new provisions for immigration that many Filipinos were able to use to their advantage.  After the act was passed, Filipinos had arrived to America in record numbers.  Living in the United States, Filipino immigrants experienced racial discrimination from others, as well as themselves.   They had also had to find out how they fit in to American society, and keep their own cultural identity.  Many newcomers had to live life as a minority by being one of few Filipinos in their area.  For some, making the move over to the United States opened them up to many negative experiences, because discrimination and loneliness, and exclusion clouded their daily lives.  On the other hand, many Filipinos in that migrated to highly populated Filipino areas such as Daly City were able to have the benefits of life in the United States, while having access to familiar facets of home.  Filipinos who move to areas rich in their culture are not as homesick as those who move to areas where they are truly a minority. Marcela Duff is a prime example of a Filipinos immigrant, her move to the United States was made possible by the Act of 1965, she experienced the negative and positive aspects of being an immigrant, and she was able to live in an area rich in her culture.   Many Filipinos in the Philippines have the belief that life in the United States is perfect, that money, wealth, and happiness is readily available to anyone.  However, those who do make the journey to America find that there is trouble in paradise.  Once Filipino immigrants arrive in the States they find out first-hand about realities of Life in America.  So Filipino-Americans are learning to adapt to life in the United States and find an identity that is enables them to fit in to society, while staying true to their cultural roots.

Works Cited

Duff, Marcela.  Personal Interview. November 2004 

Eljera, Bert.  "Filipino Find Home in Daly City" Asian Week May 3-9 1996


Espiritu, Yen Le.   Home Bound: Filipino American Lives Across Cultures, Communities, and Countries London, England. 2003


Le, C.N. "The 1965 Immigration Act" Asian-Nation the Landscape of Asian America. 2001


Lim, Ji Hyun "Finding Comfort in Daly City"   Asian Week April 20-26 ,2001