Daily Archives: July 19, 2015

On JFAV Lobby in the US Congress

July 18, 2015

On JFAV Lobby in the US Congress

By Al P.Garcia

“I have worn out two of my best Florsheim shoes while walking from office to office talking to US Congressmen but it’s like talking to a wall.”

That’s how Veteran Enrique Dela Cruz Sr of Los Angeles. described their lobby works in the US Congress in the 1990’s. Mr. Dela Cruz passed away but his fellow veterans and their advocates are still lobbying in the US Congress 22 years and counting.

For Arturo Garcia , the National Coordinator of the Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) ; “It was our turn to wear out our shoes and rub our legs tired in walking the tunnels, hallways of every floor of the different US Congress buildings.

And yes, there are interconnected tunnels below the US Congress that connects the buildings to the Capitol) and the stairs in going to offices to offices on both the House of Representatives (HOR) and the US Senate when we started lobbying in 2011.

One youth lobbyist was amazed and even thought that these Congress tunnels are right from the book of Rowlings “Harry Potter” and really look like the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts combined.

“Despite the hardships of walking and talking, cajoling and convincing the US Representatives in the House and the Senators to recognize the remaining 25,000 Filipino World War II Veterans, we run into many smart alecks among their staff.

One staffer from a Midwest State even said,” If we recognize Filipino Veterans then a lot of other veterans like Hmong, Laotian and even merchant marines will follow suit.”

“And with that topic as an opener, we have to explain that Filipino Veterans are not mercenaries from a regional war like Vietnam. They are different because the Philippines was a former colony of the US and Filipino fought in World War II, And that’s a World War”

Almost all JFAV lobbyist and Garcia cannot help laugh off the ignorance of some of the congressional staffers.

“Lobbying is tough, like pulling teeth. I cannot blame these staffers maybe because they don’t study their history and talked with us without any research. That’s how hard is lobbying work.” Garcia added.

There are 435 Congress people and 100 Senators and most of them are very young and did not even know World War II except those who served in the US military. To think that we must get 50% plus one to pass a law, That is our biggest problem.”

The JFAV aim to pass the Filipino Veterans Recognition Act of 2015 which very time-sensitive, urgent and necessary only highlights the gravity of JFAV’s
lobbying problem

Garcia smiled at the thought of the big job of educating this new generation of lawmakers. and congressional staff members. ” It will really test your patience and enhance your creativity in dealing with them. It requires extra effort.” Garcia explained.

“ Even during the 30 minute audience with the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Administration (DVA), Robert McDonald who spend time in the Philippines as an Executive of the Procter and Gamble last June 29 at his spacious office at the 9th Floor of the DVA Building in Washington DC, we were deeply surprised on their very scant knowledge about World War II and the Filipino veterans.” Garcia added.

They were surprised when we brought up the issue on the lump sum appeals of more than 4,000 veterans still pending with the DVA Appeals Board. Only 4,000 out of the 25,000 Veterans filed whose appeals were denied by the DVA.

“As if they don’t know the data that even come from their office They even died it at first but later admitted the fact..” MS. Bernie Ganon, one of the JFAV
advocates said.

The DVA Secretary even feigned sympathy to the group led by Ms. Bernie Ganon who father was a World War II veteran. He said in the end of the meeting,” I understand your situation, 70 years is too long for you to get your compensation.”

“ But all it’s not hopeless. JFAV has been lobbying the US Congress for more than 22 years and we were able to get some benefits from the US Congress. The Black Caucus and the Asian Caucus of the House have been supportive of our lobby efforts.

The good news is that Last June 13, 2015. Rep, Jackie Speier just filed again for the third time the Filipino Veterans Recognition Act of 2015 at the US Congress . The Bill will repeal the Rescission Act of 1946 ad will give full monthly military pension to the remaining 25,000 Veterans and 60,000 widows.” Garcia explained.

An LA journalist who covers the Congress commented.” “I am amazed at you Filipinos, you won’t go away.” Garcia answered,”Yes, we wont’ until our Veterans are recognized and got their benefits, we won’t go away.”

“Hope spring eternal. And as long as there is somebody standing for the Filipino Veterans and Widows and for our community, we will remain firm and will fight for Veterans and widows equity and recognition till hell freezes over. “Garcia exclaimed.


Filipino World War II veterans can soon be reunited with their families

July 18-22, 2015

Filipino World War II veterans can soon be reunited with their families

Los Angeles-(-An Asian Journal Exclusive)– Filipino World War II veterans can soon be reunited with their families in the United States through a new policy introduced by the White House on Wednesday, July 15.

This news comes after President Barack Obama’s announcement of a series of executive actions on immigration back in November 2014, wherein he tasked key federal agencies to look at ways to “modernize and streamline” the immigration system and provide recommendations.

The policy, included in a report released by the agencies, will allow certain family members of Filipino veterans who fought in the World War II to seek parole under a program set up by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Estimates indicate that as many as 26,000 Filipino veterans (of the over 260,000 Filipino soldiers who fought) are US citizens, after long being excluded from a law that granted citizenship to foreign soldiers serving in the US forces. 

Some of the veterans have petitioned family members from the Philippines to join them in the United States; however, wait times can last years, often times exceeding 20 years, due to statutory visa caps. With the population of veterans rapidly aging—the White House estimates around 6,000 veterans are still alive in the US today—having family members by their sides would provide them with the necessary support and care.

“Through this recommendation, those who endure these waits will have the opportunity to seek parole in order to be reunited with and care for their Filipino veteran family member,” a White House official familiar with the policy told the Asian Journal on Wednesday.

INA Parole Program

In recent years, the United States set up similar parole programs, such as the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program and the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program. Under those parole programs, the beneficiaries are allowed to come to the US and be eligible to apply for work authorization while waiting to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

Though the roll out date of the policy affecting Filipino veterans and their families is yet to be announced, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and State Department will provide the application process, and will be separate from the general family-based immigration system.

Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis for a temporary period of time based upon “urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” Praise for family reunification Attempts to reunite Filipino veterans and their families have been introduced in the past, including the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act introduced earlier this year by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but have failed to gain any traction.

Right Thing To Do

In a statement, Hirono called the White House’s move “the right thing to do.” “For many years, I’ve fought to end the visa backlog for the sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans, whether through legislation or other avenues like today’s announcement by the president. We made a promise to these individuals, and expediting reunification with their children through parole brings us one significant step closer in fulfilling that promise,” she said. Several community leaders have also lauded the new policy on Wednesday.

“This is a day to celebrate,” Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, said in a statement. “Even though the US government promised Filipino World War II veterans US citizenship in recognition of their service and contributions to America, it took more than 50 years before they actually received citizenship. Until now, the inhumanely long visa backlog has separated them from their children and denied them the opportunity to live together in the United States.”

JFAV Statement

A version of the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act was included in the comprehensive bipartisan bill that passed the Senate in 2013, but did not move forward in the House.

“We are happy with the [announcement] because it can provide a mechanism for Filipino veterans to be with their families,” Art Garcia, national coordinator of Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV), added. “It’ll be a process and we will help the veterans apply for this once the applications come out, since they’re getting older.”

In addition to family reunification, other movements have called for more recognition for the veterans. Earlier in June, a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress to honor Filipino veterans with a Congressional Gold Medal.

The report released Wednesday also provided recommendations to digitize the visa application, which remains mostly paper-based, improve the issuance of employment-based immigrant visa numbers, and simplify systems for domestic violence survivors who seek immigration relief through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioner process.