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.


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