LOS ANGELES – A Hawaiian Senator and Congresswoman on Tuesday introduced legislation in both chambers that would reunite Filipino World War II veterans with their families.
Senator Mazie K. Hirono and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa introduced the Filipino Veterans of World War II Family Reunification Act, measures that would expedite immigration proceedings for children of Filipino WWII veterans, who have languished in the US immigration backlog.
“This measure is an important step toward fulfilling our obligations to these brave veterans, who fought bravely for our nation during World War II,” said Hanabusa in a statement.
“Our nation can never fully repay the debt we owe the Filipino World War II veterans who bravely served and sacrificed alongside Americans in the critical South West Pacific Theatre,” said Hirono in a separate statement.
“The brave servicemen who are still with us, now in their eighties and nineties, should not have to wait any longer in order to be reunited with their children.”
Filipino World War II veterans have been fighting to be reunited with their children since becoming citizens decades ago. About 7,000 Filipino soldiers were granted US citizenship after fighting for the United States during World War II.
But because of immigration restrictions on the number of Filipinos allowed in the country each year, these children, most of them adults now, have often been stuck in the country’s growing immigration backlog.
The bills would exempt the numerical limitation on immigrant visas for the children of Filipino veterans.
According to US State Department, married sons and daughters of US citizens from the Philippines, have a wait of more than 20 years. Currently, they are processing petitions filed in 1992.
During their decades long fight for benefits and equal treatment, many of these Filvets have expressed to the Asian Journal previously that reunification with family members is more important than any monetary sum from the government.
“If we do not act, their families may miss precious time with them because of the frustrating length of immigration waiting lists,” said Hanabusa.
Former Hawaii Senators Daniel Akaka and the late Daniel K. Inouye have long championed the bill. However, nothing ever materialized.
Hanabusa and Hirono are hoping things are different this year.
The two are banking on the current wave of immigration reform sweeping across Washington.
The American Coalition of Filipino Veterans estimates that 20,000 sons and daughters of US Filipino World War II veterans will directly benefit from Filipino WWII Family Reunification bill.
“We applaud Sen. Hirono’s great decision in reintroducing the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification bill,” Eric Lachica, Executive Director for the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans said.
“The Hirono bill will keep the approved immigration petitions and hopes of our Filipino American World War II heroes alive after they fade away. We are glad Senator Hirono continues to fight for the legacy of Senators Akaka and Inouye for their Filipino comrades.”