SPECIAL IMMIGRATION STATUS FOR CHILDREN OF FILIPINO WORLD WAR II VETERANS

 

 By:  Roman P. Mosqueda, Esq.

 

            On May 18, 2006, the Junior Senator from Hawaii, Daniel Kahikina Akaka, introduced Amendment No. 4029 to the Senate Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, S.2611, giving special immigration status to children of Filipino World War II veterans, to promote family reunification. 

 

            The amendment seeks to add Section 509, Children of Filipino World War II Veterans, to Senate Bill No. 2611 (which amends Section 201(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) that would allow children of Filipino World War II veterans to obtain lawful permanent resident status (green card) without waiting for visa availability of Family-Based First Preference (unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) or of Family-Based Third Preference (married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens).

 

            The Immigration Act of 1990 provided citizenship to Filipino World War II veterans by adding Section 405 to the Immigration  Act of 1990.  It did not provide special immigration status to their children nor to their spouses.  The principal sponsor of Section 409 of the Immigration Act of 1990 was Senator Daniel Inouye, the Senior Senator from Hawaii, who also co-sponsored Amendment No. 4029, together with Senators Murray and Cantwell. 

 

            Congressman Ed Case has currently introduced a similar bill, H.R. 901, on special immigrant status for children of Filipino World War II veterans for family reunification, in the House of Representatives.

 

Filipino World War II Veterans

Equity Bill (H.R. 4574):

 

            Aside from granting citizenship to Filipino World War II veterans in 1990, the Congress of the United States did not provide, and has not provided, any other benefits to the Filipino veterans.  The Equity Bill, S.146 and H.R. 4574, filed with the current Congress seeks to qualify them for the same benefits as U.S. military veterans of active duty.

 

            Unfortunately, since the Equity Bill is a VA Pension Benefit bill, not an immigration bill, it has been languishing in the Congress for more than fifteen (15) years now.    The benefits it seeks for Filipino World War II veterans are the same as what U.S. veterans are now receiving.

 

            Principally sponsored by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista, CA), with now 39 co-sponsors, the Equity Bill has been refiled in Congress, but not enough interest has been generated to pass it to date.

 

            Eric Lachica, Executive Director  of the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans, is spearheading the campaign for the passage of the Equity Bill, and now Amendment 4029, which passed the Senate on May 18, 2006.

 

Bases For Passage of

Amendment No. 4029:

 

            In his sponsorship speech of Amendment No. 4029 before the Senate, Senator Akaka narrated the 1941 Executive Order of Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, calling and ordering into the service of the Armed Forces of the United States all of the organized military forces of the government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.

 

            That Executive Order based on a 1934 legislation enacted prior to Philippine Independence on July 04, 1946, drafted over 200,000 Filipino citizens into the United States military, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur.  They fought alongside American soldiers in the defense of our country, according to Sen. Daniel Akaka.

 

            When Bataan fell and the Bataan Death March began in April 1942, Filipino soldiers marched about one hundred sixty (160)  kilometers from Bataan to Nueva Ecija along with their American comrades in arms.  Ten thousand of the seventy-five thousand Filipino and U.S. soldiers died.  Filipino soldiers endured four (4) years of occupation by the Japanese forces, many in concentration camps.

 

            But instead of treating Filipino soldiers as war heroes, they were betrayed by the U.S. Congress, according to Sen. Akaka, by enacting the First Supplemental Surplus Appropriation Rescission Act in 1946, which included a rider that conditioned the $200 million appropriation to the post-war Philippine army, on the basis that service in the Philippines Army during the Commonwealth period should not be deemed to have been service in the U.S. Armed Forces.

 

            Citing legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service data, Sen. Akaka stated that about 15,000 Filipino veterans who live in the United States became U.S. citizens between 1991 and 1995, under the Immigration Act of 1990.

 

            And between that same time, about 11,000 Filipino veterans who live in the Philippines were successfully naturalized.  Unfortunately, the Immigration Act of 1990 did not extend to spouses and children of Filipino veterans.  But Section 329(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act exempted Filipino World War II veterans from being in the United States at time of enlistment or induction, or subsequent thereto becoming lawful permanent residents because of their specified active-duty service during World War II, provided they apply for naturalization during the 2-year period beginning November 29, 1990.

 

            Worse, in 1997 the U.S. Congress amended Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which limited naturalization to Filipino World War II veterans of recognized guerrilla units that appeared on the final roster prepared by the Guerrilla Affairs Division (GAD) of the U.S. Army or authenticated by relevant U.S. Government executive agencies.

 

            Prior to the 1997 amendment, Filipino War veterans could become naturalized, even if they were not on the GAD list.  They could prove military service by means other than certification from the U.S. Army, or authentication by relevant U.S. Government executive agencies.

 

            Moreover, there was a deadline of February 03, 2001 for recognized Filipino World War II veterans to complete their naturalization process in the Philippines or in the United States.

 

Filipino American World War II

Veteran Community Forum:

 

            Susan Maguindang-Dilkes, Executive Director of the Filipino American Service Group, Inc. (FASGI), and Eduardo Angeles, Esq., President of the Philippine American Bar Association (PABA), are sponsoring through their respective organization the “Filipino American World War II Veteran Community Forum:  The History In the Making,” on Saturday, June 24, 2006 from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m.

 

            The venue is the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, Inc., Auditorium at No. 1300 Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90057.  U.S. Congressmen David Dreier (R-Glendora), Darrell Issa (R-Vista), Xavier Becerra (D-L.A.), this Author, and Eric Lachica, Executive Director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, have been invited as speakers.

 

            (The Author, Roman P. Mosqueda, has been an advocate for immigration and other benefits to Filipino World War II veterans.  He filed the complaint, seeking to declare as unconstitutional the rider in the 1946 Rescission Act, which considered service in the Commonwealth of the Philippines Army as not service in the United States Armed Forces, in the late 1980’s, with the U.S. District Court, Central District (Los Angeles) of California.)