Reuniting Filipino WWII Veterans With Families

March 14, 2013, 8:35 AM HST · Updated March 14, 8:37 AM
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File photo by Wendy Osher.

File photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

Hawaii’s two US Senators joined colleagues in supporting legislation to reunite Filipino World War II veterans with their families.

The legislation is to address a previous policy which offered US citizenship to certain Filipino veterans of World War II in recognition of their service; but did not extend the offer to their children.

As a result, the veterans who came to the US could only reunite with their children by filing a petition and waiting in line, a process that in some cases, lawmakers say, took more than 20 years.

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The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act, S.461, seeks to exempt the veterans’ children, about 20,000 individuals in all, from the numerical limitation on immigrant visas.

Lawmakers say many of the veterans that would benefit from such legislation are in their 80s and 90s, and are still waiting to reunite with their children.

The bill was introduced on March 5 by a group of Senate Democrats that include Senators Harry Reid of Nevada, Mazie Hirono of Hawai’i, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Mark Begich of Arkansas, and Brian Schatz of Hawai’i.

“Our nation can never fully repay the debt we owe the Filipino World War II veterans who bravely served and sacrificed alongside American forces,” said US Sen. Hirono in a media statement.  “The brave servicemen who are still with us, now in their eighties and nineties, should not have to wait any longer in order to be reunited with their children.”

Fellow US Sen. Schatz joined in support of the bill saying, “I urge my Senate colleagues to help us continue the legacy of Senators Akaka and Inouye by honoring our brave Filipino veterans that have made sacrifices in order to keep our nation safe. It is critical that we work together to remove immigration barriers so that they can finally be reunited with their families.”

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