Filipino World War II veterans celebrate Philippine Independence Day at a parade in Washington, D.C. in this file photo.
WASHINGTON — A legislation that would reunite U.S.-based Filipino World War II veterans with their Philippine-based children was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate on May 27.
The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act of 2011 was refiled by Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii).
It is co-sponsored by Senators Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey).
The text of the bill is included in the Military Families Act reintroduced by Menendez and eight other Democratic senators that included New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
The Military Families Act would grant permanent-resident status to the immigrant relatives of active-duty military personnel.
If approved, it would provide green cards to immigrant parents, spouses and children of anyone who has served in the armed forces since 2001.
The bill, with the family reunification provision, also covers the immigrant relatives of those who have died while serving in the military.
It will benefit thousands of Filipino adult children who are still awaiting approval of their immigration petition by their World War II veteran parents.
“We owe the men and women who risk their lives in service of our nation so much, and that should include the right to be united with their closest family members in our country on a permanent basis,” said Menendez.
In the House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) refiled the Reuniting Families Act on May 6.
There are an estimated 20,000 Philippine-based adult children of Filipino World War II veterans who are still awaiting entry to the U.S.
Many of these children already have approved petition, but a yearly quota imposed on the Philippines by the U.S. immigration law prevents them from coming to the U.S.
“The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act would resolve a seven-decade-old issue by creating an exemption from the numerical limitation on immigrant visas granted to the children of WWII Filipino veterans,” Akaka said.
“In reuniting these veterans with their families, we will properly honor their World War II service to this nation.”
“For me, it has always been a matter of honor and recognition for the Filipino World War II veterans and the acknowledgment of their service to our country. The Filipinos, fought and died for our great nation. This legislation will bring families together and will further honor the courageous sacrifices made by these veterans during World War II,” said Inouye.
Both Akaka and Inouye are World War II veterans.
At the end of WWII, some Filipino veterans were offered U.S. citizenship in recognition of their service.
The offer, however, did not extend to their children.
As a result, the veterans who came to the U.S. have had to file permanent resident petitions to reconnect with their children who have remained in the Philippines on the visa waiting list for years.
Now in their 80s and 90s, these men continue to wait for their children to join them in the U.S.
This legislation exempts the veterans’ children, about 20,000 individuals in all, from the numerical limitation on immigrant visas.
Of the surviving Filipino World War II veterans, it is estimated that 6,000 are U.S. citizens and reside in this country, according to Akaka.
The Department of Homeland Security also estimates that thousands of active-duty military personnel have immediate family members who are undocumented immigrants, among them also Filipinos.
If passed, the Military Families Act would be the second major expansion in as many years of residency rights for immigrants with ties to the military.
In 2009, military officials began a pilot program to accept immigrants with temporary visas for recruitment to the armed forces with the promise of an expedited path to citizenship.
The program was expanded last year.
Green card holders have long been able to enlist and seek a quicker route to citizenship.
Tens of thousands of permanent residents have received citizenship this way since 2001, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
No Republicans in Congress have expressed support for the measure.
In the past, Republicans have resisted proposals to confer legal status on groups of undocumented immigrants, arguing that federal policy should instead focus on border security and tighter enforcement of naturalization laws that are already on the books.
Menendez first introduced the Military Families Act in 2009, but the legislation stalled alongside the DREAM Act, which sought to provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children if they enroll in college or enlist in the military.
The DREAM Act has since been reintroduced as well.