Pinoy immigrant eyeing seat in NY city council

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Apr 24 2013 02:55 PM | Updated as of Apr 25 2013 03:42 AM

Filipino-American Edward Santos

NEW YORK - As an immigrant growing up in America, Filipino-American Edward Santos had humble beginnings in East Harlem.

But poverty, he said, has shaped him to the man he has become today — one pursuing a dream to become the first Filipino-American to win a seat in the City Council of New York City, come election day.

Born in Detroit, Michigan in the 80′s, Santos was almost separated from his mother, Emilie Santos, who was then on the verge of deportation. But she fought to stay in America to give her son a chance to pursue his American Dream.

After pleading to dozens of politicians around the US, she received a phone call from a US senator that changed their lives forever.

Sponsored by then Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, and introduced by then Senator Joe Biden, “The Emilie Santos Bill” – that lawfully admitted Emilie Santos to the US for permanent residency under the Immigration and Nationality Act, was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.

“It was a rare opportunity to see politics in action and how it can affect just a small family, so that was very important to me,” Santos said.

But even after his mother was legalized, growing up at the Bronx was tough for Ed Santos.

His mother worked as a nanny on the Upper East Side and his father, started as a waiter.

He said they were so poor he had to wear the same pants to school every day and couldn’t go on field trips because they didn’t have the money to do so.

But that didn’t stop him from becoming a teacher.

“What I knew in my heart was that education was so important, that’s what really drove me to become a teacher in the district that I am in now,” said Santos.

Today, this 27-year-old son of Filipino immigrants is making history.

He may become the first Filipino-American voice in New York City Assembly, representing District 8 in East Harlem-South Bronx.

He is making a difference everyday in the lives of immigrants, the same way Senator Levin, Senator Biden and President Reagan made a difference in his.

“My district has a 17% unemployment rate, we have 1 in 7 kids not going to school, we have the highest crime rate in the area and I really want to change those things,” said Santos. “Having this opportunity to be able to experience whatever I want to do, run for office, to me is a dream come true.”

Santos said passing a common sense immigration reform that is fair and just would benefit immigrants like him and his family who came to the US to make a better life.