My parents were born during the time when the Philippines was a commonwealth of the United States. They each grew up with a great love and admiration for the U.S. There were many in my maternal and paternal families who fought on the side of the United States when the Philippines was a territory of the United States, occupied by the Japanese during World War II.
My paternal grandmother used to tell me stories of how my then seven-year-old father would secretly sneak food to American soldiers who were captured and imprisoned. My mom told me stories of how she and my heartbroken grandmother would visit one of her older brothers who was imprisoned and tortured because of his involvement in the pro-American underground resistance.
My parents brought me up with great respect for American ideals and values of liberty and justice for all. Therefore, it was reasonable for them to send me to the United States to have an American experience. The plan was that I would stay for one year of schooling. I came here in 1979 on a tourist visa, which I unsuccessfully tried to convert into a student visa. The visa lapsed, and I fell out of status. I did not readily go home as my mom and dad, and I thought it would be better to continue my studies. For seven years I was an undocumented immigrant. I worked during that time, and despite the risk of getting caught, I paid my taxes. I felt it my civic and spiritual duty to render what is due to this country.
Thanks to the bipartisan Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, I was able to apply for amnesty in 1987. I no longer needed to hide or live in fear. Later, I was able to gain my U.S. citizenship. Thankful for this blessing, I was resolved to serve this country by serving its vulnerable citizens and residents. I became a licensed social worker and worked with the homeless, people with mental illness and those living with HIV/AIDS. Now, I am a pastor of a church in New York City, and as well, I minister to those in prison.
Sometimes, all immigrants are lumped together as a threat to the national and financial security of these United States. I am saddened that we are all characterized as such, but I want you to know that the majority of immigrants are not only law-abiding citizens and residents, but we have a great love of this country and much to contribute.
April 12-18 has been declared "Rise Up," a National Week of Actions on Immigrant Rights by the National Queer Asian and Pacific Island Alliance (NQAPIA). Throughout the week LGBTQ Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander organizations in a dozen cities are highlighting the importance of immigrants' rights to the LGBTQ community and increase awareness of racial and religious profiling in immigration. On April 15, I stood side by side with N.Y.C. LGBT and Asian communities in at a press conference in support of immigrant rights held on the steps of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit at Foley Square.
As a gay man, a person of faith, an immigrant and as an American citizen, I am proud to stand up for immigrant rights.
Pro Deo et patria,
The Reverend Noel E. Bordador
The Episcopal Diocese of New York