Midwestern Filipino “Unintentional Immigrants,” 1905–45: A Colonial Era Anomaly

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 11:30 AM
Washington Room 4 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Barbara M. Posadas, Northern Illinois University
Roland L. Guyotte, University of Minnesota, Morris
Filipinos who migrated to the Midwest before World War II generally came to study and then return to the Philippines, as Americans expected.  Predominantly young, male, and single, they shared this basic identity with Filipino laborers recruited to Hawaii and most Filipinos who migrated independently to the West Coast during these years. But they differed significantly in the goals that encouraged their departure from the Philippines.  While some sprang from aristocratic backgrounds, others believed that acquiring an American college degree might propel them into a newly forming nationalist elite based upon professional skills appropriate to a homeland seeking independence from a colonial power.  While many of these migrants achieved their educational goals and returned home, others did not.  This essay explores the experiences of those in the latter group who completed their education but stayed on in the United States even though they could not become citizens until the United States changed naturalization laws applying to Filipinos in 1943 and 1946.  Our paper also contrasts the circumstances of these early migrants with those of educated Filipinos who arrived in far larger numbers after the sweeping alteration of United States’ immigration law in 1965.  We contend that, irrespective of the era during which they arrived and settled, race circumscribed the lives of transplanted Filipinos in myriad ways, even as they found ways to achieve their versions of the American dream.
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