May 19, 2021

Hirono, Murkowski, Sullivan, Case, Young Introduce Bicameral Bill to Reunite Filipino World War II Veterans with Their Children

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Representatives Ed Case (D-Hawaii) and Don Young (R-Alaska) today reintroduced the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act (S.1708), legislation that would speed up the visa process for children of Filipino World War II veterans.

“Filipino and American servicemembers fought side by side during World War II. As a grateful nation, we should do everything we can to reunite Filipino soldiers with their children,” Senator Hirono said. “The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act rights a historic wrong and keeps our nation’s promise to honor Filipino veterans’ service to the United States.”

“During World War II, thousands of brave Filipinos put their lives on the line to fight alongside our soldiers to help protect American lives. Former President Bush granted many Filipino veterans citizenship, but that opportunity was not extended to their family. Unfortunately, due to a visa backlog, many Filipino veterans have been separated from their loved ones for decades,”Senator Murkowski said. “Most of the Filipino veterans that served America during WWII are now in their 80s and 90s making this legislation more timely than ever. Reuniting mothers and fathers with their children, who have been separated for far too long is about more than just a humanitarian gesture. It is about doing what is right and fair for all the veterans who served under the American flag.” 

“Thousands of Filipinos who fought alongside American service members during World War II were rightfully granted U.S. citizenship years later, but many of their children and family members were left to navigate the slow and onerous immigration process,” Senator Sullivan said. “The FWVP was an imperfect lifeline for these veterans to finally bring their families to the United States, and letting it expire would be a dereliction of America’s responsibility to these brave heroes who sacrificed on our behalf. I’m glad to put forward a permanent solution with Senator Hirono that will ensure the surviving Filipino-American veterans of the Second World War can be reunited with their loved ones before it’s too late.”

“I also welcome the companion version of our House bill introduced today in the U.S. Senate by Senator Hirono of Hawaii,” Congressman Ed Case said. “Since I first pursued the family reunification of Filipino veterans in 2003, there has been frustratingly slow but steady progress toward this long-overdue need, in particular Sen. Hirono’s 2016 initiative under which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services created the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program, a temporary administrative fix which allows these veterans to request parole for their children or siblings under which they can live in the U.S. pending processing of their permanent resident applications. In August 2019, the Trump administration terminated the parole program, thus eliminating this temporary solution and forcing reunited families to separate once their parole has ended, and we have urged President Biden to reverse this termination. The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act would finally make this program permanent by exempting immigrant visa applications of children of Filipino World War II veterans from existing caps and essentially allow them to gain green cards on processing and approval of their applications, which are still carefully vetted in line with existing immigration standards. This will not only assist these veterans in their senior years but also provide a fitting recognition of their critical service in the War.”

“During the Second World War, Filipino soldiers bravely answered the call to service and fought alongside our American servicemembers. These soldiers were promised they would be treated equally, and allowed to come to the United States following their service. Sadly, a bureaucratic backlog has caused a decades-long delay and prevented the reunification of these families. I am proud to join Senators Hirono, Murkowski, and Sullivan, and Congressman Ed Case in the introduction of the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act, which would expedite the visa process and make good on the promises made to these heroic freedom fighters,” Congressman Young said.

“Filipino World War II veterans served this country with distinction and waited far too long to be rewarded with U.S. citizenship, which meant that their adult children had to get in the back of a decades long line,” said Marita Etcubanez, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “We applaud Senators Hirono, Murkowski, and Sullivan and Representatives Case and Young in leading this bipartisan bill to remove barriers that keep these military heroes separated from their family members. 2021 is the year to get this bill past the finish line.”

The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Senator Hirono has introduced the bipartisan Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act during the 113th,114th115th, and 116thCongresses, and offered it as an amendment to the Senate-passed 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.

More than 260,000 Filipino soldiers followed America’s call to fight under the American flag in World War II, but there are only a few thousand of these veterans still alive. Despite their heroic service, Congress passed the Rescission Acts of 1946 which made Filipinos ineligible for benefits granted to other World War II veterans. 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, some Filipino applicants must wait nearly twenty years 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 can reunite with their loved ones. In 2019, the Trump Administration announced its intention to terminate FWVP and in December 2020, published final steps to end this program in the Federal Register. Rep. Case led a bicameral, bipartisan letter signed by Senator Hirono and 30 of their House and Senate colleagues to President Biden in February 2021, urging the new administration to rescind the termination efforts and renew FWVP.

The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act would provide a permanent solution by 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. 

The bill is supported by Asian 210, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Asian Americans Advancing Justice- Chicago, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, Black Veterans Project, Church World Service, Faith in Public Life Action Fund, Filipino Bar Association of Northern California, Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago (FALA Chicago), Filipino Young Leaders Program, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Human Rights First, Immigration Hub, Interfaith Welcome Coalition - San Antonio, International Refugee Assistance Project, Japanese American Citizens League, Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG), National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), National Filipino American Lawyers Association (NFALA), National Immigration Forum, National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, Oregon Filipino American Lawyers Association (OFALA), Pilipino Workers Center, PWC, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, UndocuBlack Network, Veterans for American Ideals, Wind of the Spirt Immigrant Resource Center.

The full bill text is available here

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