May 22, 2019

Hirono, Case, Murkowski, Young Reintroduce Bicameral Legislation to Reunite Filipino World War II Veterans with Their Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act, a bill that would expedite the visa process for children of Filipino World War II veterans. Representatives Ed Case (D-Hawaii) and Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“During World War II, Filipino soldiers stepped up and answered the call to service, fighting and sacrificing alongside American servicemembers,” Senator Hirono said. “However, because these family members have been stuck in a decades-long visa backlog, they have not been able to reunite with their relatives in the United States. The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act would fulfill our nation’s promise to honor Filipino World War II veterans’ service to our country and reunite these families.”

“During World War II, the Philippines were under United States control. Thousands of brave Filipinos put their lives on the line and fought side-by-side with American soldiers under our flag. They did so with the understanding that they would be treated equal to American veterans, but unfortunately their fight for fair compensation and recognition continues today,” Senator Murkowski said. “Most of the Filipino veterans that served America during WWII are now in their 80s and 90s. Many have been separated from their children for far too long. This is more than just a humanitarian gesture—this is about honoring veterans and their families for their sacrifices during the war and throughout the decades that followed.”

“I also welcome the companion version of this bill introduced today in the U.S. Senate by Senator Hirono of Hawaii and Senator Murkowski of Alaska,” Rep. Case said. “In 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services created the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program, a temporary administrative fix that allows these veterans to request parole for their children or siblings. Under this policy, they can live in the U.S. pending processing of their permanent resident applications, which may still take years if not decades. However, as these veterans near the end of their lives, they deserve the certainty of a non-revocable permanent solution. This bill would grant them that. In this Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and in further recognition of the selfless service and contributions of Filipino veterans of World War II to our country, I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting and passing this bill.”

“Once again we owe Senator Mazie Hirono a debt of gratitude for her tireless leadership. For far too long, Filipino World War II veterans have waited for the opportunity to reunite with their family members. This legislation is a small, but important step towards honoring the service and sacrifice of these veterans. On behalf of NCAPA, I thank Senator Hirono for reintroducing this bill and for continually uplifting the forgotten voices of the Asian American Pacific Islander community,” Gregg Orton, National Director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, said.

“The time to reunite our brave Filipino American World War II veterans with their families is running out,” Brendan Flores, National Chairman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, said. “We commend Senator Hirono for her unwavering commitment to these veterans, as she reintroduces the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act in Congress. We remain prepared to support any efforts to ensure that this time-sensitive legislation comes to fruition.”

“Filipino World War II veterans have served this country with distinction and waited far too long – decades in most cases – to be reunited with their family members,” John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said. “We applaud and support this effort to remove any further barriers that keep the families separated from these military heroes.” 

More than 260,000 Filipino soldiers followed America’s call to fight under the American flag in World War II. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush granted U.S. citizenship to about 26,000 Filipino nationals in recognition of their service to the United States during World War II. However, the 1990 law did not confer citizenship or residency to the veterans’ children, who remained separated from their parents. Due to a visa backlog, Filipino applicants must wait more than two decades before their applications are considered.

In 2016, after years of advocacy by Senator Hirono, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began implementation of the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole (FWVP) program to reunite veterans and their surviving spouses with adult children and certain other relatives. However, the program is limited and provides no guarantee that these veterans will reunite with their loved ones. In 2017, Senator Hirono urged the Trump Administration to continue the FWVP program. The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act provides a permanent solution, amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to exempt from global limits the sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans who were naturalized under the 1990 law or other specified laws.

Today, there are fewer than 6,000 Filipino World War II veterans residing in the United States who would be able to take advantage of the benefits bestowed by the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act. Senator Hirono introduced the bipartisan bill in the 113th, 114th, and 115th Congresses and offered it as an amendment to the Senate’s 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, S. 744, which passed the Senate. 

In addition to Senators Hirono, Murkowski, and Rosen, the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

The full text of the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act is available here.

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