Hirono, Case reintroduce bill to reunite Filipino World War II veterans with children
The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act, legislation that would speed up the visa process for children of Filipino World War II veterans, has been reintroduced by U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representatives Ed Case (D-HI) and Jen Kiggans (R-VA).
“Filipino soldiers served our country with honor and bravery during World War II. But for too long, they’ve been denied many of the rights and benefits they deserve, including the ability to reunify with their families in the U.S.,” said Sen. Hirono.
“More than 250,000 Filipino servicemembers who fought valiantly alongside us in World War Two were promised the opportunity to immigrate to our country and did, becoming proud and productive American citizens. But our visa caps and backlog have delayed their families joining them for decades, at a time when our Filipino WWII veterans have needed them the most,” said Congressman Case.
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 Sen. Hirono, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began implementation of the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole 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 the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole program and in December 2020, published final steps to end this program in the Federal Register.
Rep. Case led a bicameral, bipartisan letter signed by Sen. Hirono and 30 of their House and Senate colleagues to President Joe Biden in February 2021, urging the new administration to rescind the termination efforts and renew the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole program, and the Department of Homeland Security has since reversed its 2019 announcement.
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.