After six Asian women were murdered at three different Asian spas in Atlanta, I couldn’t help but think of my own Tita Elly, the wife of my grandmother’s brother and an undocumented Filipina woman who’d been living in Chicago as a nanny for as long as I’ve been alive. She had been what many in the Filipino community called a TNT (“tago ng tago”) meaning “hiding and hiding.” She left the United States last year and returned to the Philippines for good, finally reuniting with her family after many years of separation.
But what if she hadn’t? If something, God forbid, ever happened to her in Chicago, how would we have found out? Would the police have had any idea of the intricacies of Filipino communities, migration stories, or know how to communicate in Tagalog with her loved ones? Would they have found any of us in the States? Would they have known she had a loving husband, three children, and six grandchildren waiting for her in the Philippines?
There’s a common misconception that all Asian immigrants are H1B-carrying, highly educated, wealthy people. The reality is that the Asian American community has the largest wealth disparity between ethnicities of any racial group in the United States. Many immigrated here to escape abject poverty, desolation, dictatorships, war, violence, and impoverishment, often as a result of years, if not centuries, of invasion and colonial rule, only to engage in invisible, lonely, and often laborious work well into their seventies.