Angel Orinion
English 165
Ms. Erpelo
Dec. 15, 2005
Final Draft

Adapting in American Soil

The Immigration Act of 1965 represented a significant turning point in Asian American history. The 1965 Act abolished the national immigration quotas, and permitted entry to the United States by virtue of family reunification and occupation. The act allowed an annual of 170,000 immigrants with no more than 20,000 per country, and was influenced by the Civil Rights Movement to rid America of racial discrimination; natives who had been hindered from entering America because of their ethnicity was obsolete. Filipinos have immigrated into the United States ever since the beginning of the 19th century, and have been labeled in batches called immigration in waves. The first wave of Filipinos consisted of students called pensionados and farm workers called sakadas. The second wave of Filipinos were those who joined the U.S. Navy, and lastly, the third wave of Filipinos were Filipinos who migrated after the Immigration Act of 1965, who were the largest group of Filipinos to migrate. This third wave of Filipinos was joined by a man named Johnny Go. In a recent interview with Mr. Go, I have conducted many information about him migrating to the U.S. and asked him questions like what were you feeling when you first arrived. Because of the quiet setting and one on one interaction, I was able to get a feel on some of the things he had to say, and was able to examine the hardships that was brought into the lives of the third wave of Filipinos. Johnny Go migrated after the Immigration Act of 1965 because he was curious about America and he wanted to experience what was out there. His expectations of becoming successful in America helped him escape the deep trenches of forever staying in the Philippines. Johnny Go’s experience of migrating to the U.S. proves how difficult it was to adapt into a new environment and still become happy and successful.
Johnny Go left the country he was born and raised in during the 1970’s. The Philippines, which is surrounded by water, is also isolated from other Asian countries because of it’s qualities. The Philippines is the only Asian Christian nation and is a prominent democracy in Asia. But during the presidency of Marcos Ferdinand, he declared Martial Law in 1972 and “prorogued the legislatures, controlled the media, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, and arrested many of his alleged political opponents.”(Aquino) During this time in the Philippines, Johnny Go did not hesitate when he had the opportunity to leave the Philippines because of the repressive government of the Philippines. In the interview I conducted, Johnny states that the country was under Martial Law when he left, and he thought the best way to get out it was to leave. He left the Philippines because he felt like he was deprived from democracy. And it wasn’t uncommon for people to flee the country that was under Martial Law because “during the Marcos era (1965-1986), an estimated three hundred thousand Filipinos emigrated to the United States.”(Braziel) Perhaps, everyone, at the time, felt that life in the Philippines was not as good as it should be and many left; especially professionals. Out of the third wave of Filipinos that came between 1965 to 1977, up to 85 percent of Filipinos were professionals. According to a U.S. congressional report, there were between “five hundred to one thousand political prisoners in the Philippines at the end of 1978.”(Aquino) During this period, Marcos and his regime terrorized, arrested, and executed their political opponents and made it clear to everyone that they were in control. Similar to many other Filipinos, Johnny felt that his life was being repressed and that his rights were being violated, and so, he left.
Before actually adapting to the United States, Johnny Go had to make up his mind on where to settle for the rest of his life. Although he left his mother and sister in the Philippines, he decided to stay with his other sister whose living in the United States. He stated that he considered moving to the East coast because all of his friends were there, but decided not to, and simply said, “Blood is thicker than water.”(Go) At the time, Filipinos were doing the same thing. Filipinos were following other Filipinos so they could be close to their friends, family, wives, husband, etc. And with the help of networking with those already in the United States, Filipinos were able to gather in an area filled with other Filipinos. In the book Home Bound, Espiritu shows how Filipinos used networking to their advantage, especially the nurses, and how Filipinos have been successful in guiding others to migrate. To reside in a community with many other Filipinos meant less racism, and Filipinos considered moving to places like those. Johnny Go left the country to stay on the West Coast simply because his family was there.
Upon Johnny’s arrival in the states, looking for a job was an issue he wasn’t too concerned about. Johnny left his homeland after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. And according to a U.S. Census data, 40 percent of Filipino immigrants who had left during Martial Law had a bachelors degree or higher. Although Johnny had a bachelors degree, it was not valid in the United States. Luckily, all he had to do was take a test that would approve of his degree. But for many others, their degrees lead to jobs that didn’t relate to their profession. In the book Home Bound, it shows many examples of Filipinos who was in the same situation, where their occupation wasn’t in the same page as their education. Many Filipinos had to take in blue collared jobs such as a janitor, in order to make ends meet, but for Johnny, finding a job was quite easy. After one month of his arrival, he was employed with a company located in San Francisco called Robert Liles. Unlike the first and second wave of Filipinos, who were prominent in farm work and military service, the third wave of Filipino immigrants were more likely to work in a more professional level because of their higher education.
During Johnny’s time in America, there was only one incident that involved discrimination. During a summertime he couldn’t recall, Johnny and his family were having a picnic just outside his sister’s house in Sonoma, when a bunch of white men and women were parked in front of the house and started yelling out, “Go back to China!, go back to China.”(Go) Johnny believed that this occurred because his family was one of the first immigrants in the neighborhood. This shows that having to adjust to a new lifestyle was just as hard for the white people to adjust living with non-white people. Racial discrimination dates all the way back from the early 1900s where Filipinos were forced to organize and govern themselves within the community to grow socially and economically. Even though Filipino immigrants were American nationals, they were still treated with the same hostility and discrimination that had greeted the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans. First wave Filipinos were labeled with negative stereotypes, were called names, blocked from the best jobs, denied access to public places, and were attacked by White workers. Sadly, this long history of discrimination carried it’s own weight into the third wave of Filipinos, but less restrictive due to the laws that were abolished during the Civil Rights era.
“Living in this country for much longer than I have in the Philippines, I would say that I have live my life, here in this country, happily [and] successfully…” Johnny replies, after asking if his life has been a success or failure. From the information I received from Johnny’s story I can see why his life has been a success. Although he left his mother and sister back at home, he was easily approved for citizenship and was soon reunited with his mother. During this third wave of migration, many Filipinos were sponsoring their families, in which the newly arrived families would sponsor their families, and would start a domino affect. This never-ending cycle of migration was called chain immigration and naturalization which brought in thousands of Filipinos. His skills in his profession helped him find a job within a heartbeat, and throughout the many years of hard work, he has been able to work at home, during his own hours with his own clients. Throughout his life in America, racism was behind him most of the time. And for most Filipinos who migrated, especially the earlier Filipinos, racial discrimination was as tough on Filipinos as it was with African Americans. Filipinos have undergone a series of rough times, but for Johnny Go, his determination and family helped him get through it all.
Johnny Go’s experience of migrating from one country to another shows the challenges one must make in order to live in America. Leaving your family, establishing a new home, employment, and discrimination are all important factors of migrating that Johnny Go has experienced. His hardships are no different from other Filipino immigrants in a sense that these were typical circumstances that Filipinos had to face when they even considered on attempting on living the “American Dream.” If it wasn’t for the Immigration Act of 1965, these third wave of Filipinos would have never entered the U.S. in the record numbers they have shown. The act opened doors for immigrants who believed that life in the U.S. was like eternal bliss, but for those that actually lived that life can honestly say that it takes hard work and dedication to surpass the lower class life and still live up to your Filipino roots.



Aquino, Joann. 2002. “Filipino Americans in History” 13 Dec 2005. < ml>
Braziel, Jana.
Spring 2000. “History of Migration and Immigration Laws in the United States” 13 Dec 2005. <>
Espiritu, Yen Le.
HOME BOUND: Filipino American Lives Across Cultures and Countries. University of California Press. London, England. Copyright 2003.
Go, Johnny. Personal Interview. 6 November 2005
Le, C.N. 2005.
"The New Wave of Asian Immigration" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. 13 Dec 2005. < immigration.shtml>