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History of Filipino Americans

The history of Filipino Americans begins in the 16th century when Filipinos first arrived in what is now the United States. The first Filipinos came to what is now the United States due to the Philippines being part of New Spain; until the 19th century the Philippines was connected to the rest of New Spain in the Americas via the Manila galleon. Filipino seamen in the Americas would settle in Louisiana, and Alta California, beginning in the 18th century. By the 19th century, Filipinos were living in the United States, fighting in the Battle of New Orleans and the American Civil War; by the end of the century the first Filipino became a naturalized citizen of the United States, and the United States went to war with Spain, ultimately annexing the Philippine Islands from Spain. Due to this the History of the Philippines merged with that of the United States, beginning with the Philippine-American War which resulted in the defeat of the First Philippine Republic and the attempted Americanization of the Philippines.

Mass migration of Filipinos to the United States began in the early 20th century, due to Filipinos being U.S. Nationals. These included Filipinos who enlisted as Sailors of the United States Navy, Pensionados, and laborers. During the Great Depression, Filipino Americans became targets of race based violence, to include race riots such as the one in Watsonville. The Philippine Independence Act was passed in 1934, redefining Filipinos as aliens for the purpose of immigration, encouraged Filipinos to return to the Philippines, and established the Commonwealth of the Philippines. During World War II, the Philippines was occupied leading to resistance, formation of segregated Filipino regiments, and liberation of the islands.

After World War II, the Philippines gained independence in 1946. Benefits for most Filipino veterans were rescinded with passage of the Rescission Act of 1946. Filipinos, primarily war brides, immigrated to the United States; further immigration was set to 100 persons a year due to the Luce–Celler Act of 1946, this though did not limit the number of Filipinos able to enlist into the United States Navy. In 1965, Filipino agricultural laborers, including Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, began the Delano grape strike. That same year the 100 person per year quota of Filipino immigrants was lifted and began the current wave of immigration; many of these immigrants were nurses. Filipino Americans began to become better integrated into American society, achieving many firsts. In 1992, enlistment of Filipinos in the Philippines into the United States ended. By the early 21st century Filipino American History Month was recognized.

Immigration historyEdit

Migration patterns of immigration of Filipinos to the United States have been recognized as occurring in four significant waves.[1][2] The first was connected to the period when the Philippines was part of New Spain and later the Spanish East Indies; Filipinos, via the Manila galleons, would migrate to North America.[3] In the late 19th century, the author Ramon Reyes Lala became the first Filipino to naturalize and become an American citizen.[4]

The second wave was during the period when the Philippines were a territory of the United States; as U.S. Nationals, Filipinos were unrestricted from immigrating to the US by the Immigration Act of 1917 that restricted other Asians.[1][5] This wave of immigration has been referred to as the manong generation.[6] Filipinos of this wave came for different reasons, but the majority were laborers, predominantly Ilocano and Visayan.[1] This wave of immigration was distinct from other Asian Americans, due to American influences, and education, in the Philippines; therefore they did not see themselves as aliens when they immigrated to the United States.[7] During the Great Depression, Filipino Americans were also affected, losing jobs, and being the target of race-based violence.[8] This wave of immigration ended due to the Philippine Independence Act in 1934, which restricted immigration to 50 persons a year.[1]

Later, due to basing agreements with the Philippines, Filipinos were allowed to enlist in the United States Navy; this continued a practice of allowing Filipinos to serve in the navy that began in 1901.[9] Before the end of World War I, Filipino sailors were allowed to serve in a number of ratings; however, due to a rules change during the interwar period, Filipino sailors were restricted to officers' stewards and mess attendants.[10] Filipinos who immigrated to the United States, due to their military service, were exempt to quota restrictions placed on Filipino immigration at the time.[11] This ended in 1946, following the independence of the Philippines from the United States, but resumed in 1947 due to language inserted into the Military Base Agreement between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.[9] In 1973, Admiral Zumwalt removed the restrictions on Filipino sailors, allowing them to enter any rate they qualified for;[12] in 1976 there were about 17,000 Filipinos serving in the United States Navy;[9] they created a distinct Navy-related Filipino American immigrant community.[13][14]

The third wave of immigration followed the events of World War II.[15] Filipinos who had served in World War II had been given the option of becoming U.S. Citizens, and many took the opportunity,[16] upwards of 10,000 according to Barkan.[17][18] Filipina War brides were allowed to immigrate to the United States due to War Brides Act and Fiancée Act, with approximately 16,000 Filipinas entering the United States in the years following World War II.[15][19] This immigration was not limited only to Filipinas and children; between 1946 and 1950, there was recorded one Filipino Groom granted immigration under the War Brides Act.[20] A source of immigration was opened up with the Luce–Celler Act of 1946 that gave the Philippines a quota of 100 persons a year; yet records show that 32,201 Filipinos immigrated between 1953 and 1965.[21] This wave ended in 1965.[1]

The fourth and present wave of immigration began in 1965 with passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 into law. It ended national quotas into law, and provided an unlimited number of visas for family reunification.[1] By the 1970s and 1980s Filipina wives of service members reach annual rates of five to eight thousand.[22] The Philippines became the source of the largest source of legal immigration to the United States from Asia.[11] Navy based immigration stopped with the expiration of the military bases agreement in 1992;[23] yet it continues in a more limited fashion.[24] Many Filipinas of this new wave of migration have migrated here as professionals due to a shortage in qualified nurses;[25] from 1966 until 1991, at least 35,000 Filipino nurses immigrated to the United States.[14] As of 2005, 55% of foreign-trained registered nurses taking the qualifying exam administered by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) were educated in the Philippines.[26]

Immigration from the Philippines to the United States in 2016Edit

This is a graph of the history of Filipino Immigration to the U.S. The source for this data is based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security 2016 Yearbook Statistics.

In 2016, there were around 50,609 Filipinos who obtained their legal permanent residency, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.[27] Of those Filipinos receiving their legal permanent residency status in 2016, 66% were new arrivals, while 34% were immigrants who adjusted their status within the U.S.[28] In 2016, data collected from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found that the categories of admission for Filipino immigrants were composed mainly of immediate relatives, that is 57% of admissions.[28] This makes the admission of immediate relatives for Filipinos higher than the overall average LPR immigrants, which is composed of only 47.9%.[29] Following immediate relative admission, family sponsored and employment-based admission make up the next highest means of entry for Philippine immigration, with 28% and 14% respectively.[28] Like immediate relative admission, both of these categories are higher than that of the overall U.S. LPR immigrants. Diversity, refugees and asylum, and other categories of admission make up less than a percent of Filipino immigrants granted LPR status in 2016.[28]


José Rizal around the time of his visit to the United States
Philippine Village at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901
Company labor camp for Filipino farm laborers on Ryer Island in 1940
President Truman and members of his party pose on the north steps of the "Little White House", the President's residence in Potsdam, Germany during the Potsdam Conference, with their Filipino stewards.
The building where Domingo and Viernes were assassinated.

See alsoEdit


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    "Learn about our culture". Filipino Student Association. Saint Louis University. Archived from the original on September 12, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2011. These Filipino pioneers were known as the "manong generation" since most of them came from Ilokos Sur, Iloilo, and Cavite in the Philippines.
    Jackson, Yo (2006). Encyclopedia of multicultural psychology. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE. p. 216. ISBN 978-1-4129-0948-8. Retrieved June 7, 2011. Included in this group were Pensionados, Sakadas, Alaskeros, and Manongs primarily from the Illocos and Visayas regions.
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Further readingEdit

Filipino American National Historical Society books published by Arcadia Publishing

External linksEdit