Asian Journal: Members of Congress continue efforts in reuniting families of Filipino veterans

May 27, 2017
In The News

Continuing the effort to honor Filipinos’ efforts during World War II, members of Congress have introduced new legislation to expand immigration for families of Filipino veterans.

The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act — introduced by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Representative Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) — sets out to speed up the visa process for children of Filipino WWII veterans.

Similar to the Filipino WWII Veterans Parole program, this bill seeks to bring family members of these veterans to the U.S. after decades of separation. But rather than just provide temporarily relief as the parole program does, the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act “codifies our nation’s promise to reunite these families,” said Hirono.

“When called to serve, Filipino World War II veterans fought and sacrificed alongside American servicemen,” said Hirono, who also led the effort to reward these veterans the Congressional Gold Medal last year.

“However, as a result of our country’s antiquated immigration system, these brave soldiers have been waiting more than a half century to be reunited with their loved ones,” Hirono added. “While the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole program provides temporarily relief for Filipino World War II veterans and their children, this bill codifies our nation’s promise to reunite these families.”

In the 1990s, about 50 years after the war, the U.S. granted Filipino veterans of WWII citizenship as recognition for their services. However, this didn’t include the children or families of the veterans.

If the families of the veterans want to reunite, they have to apply for a family visa, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS) limits the amount of family visas granted each year. Consequently, many families must wait years for USCIS to review their application.

The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act places an exemption on veterans’ children from the quota and allows them to bypass the limitation.

Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who has been a long-time advocate for honoring Filipinos’ efforts in WWII, co-sponsored the bill and praised Hirono and Hanabusa for expanding the benefits for the families of these veterans.

“I’m honored to represent the vibrant Filipino-American communities of Virginia, including those who fought bravely alongside Americans during World War II,” the 2016 vice presidential candidate said in a statement. “An outdated immigration system has kept these veterans separated from their families, who remain overseas. Their reunion is even more important because of the veterans’ advanced age and health care needs. This bill builds on the progress we made last year by expediting the visa process for children of Filipino World War II veterans. I’m proud to stand alongside Senator Hirono once again in this just cause.

The bill has been co-sponsored by more than 20 members of Congress including Sens Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Representatives Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.).

More than 250,000 Filipinos lent their efforts in the war and there are about 15,000 veterans — all of whom are in their 80s and 90s — that are still alive today.