New hope for descendants of World War II veteransBy Lourdes Santos Tancinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
After hundreds of amendments, the United States Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill and finally submitted it to the Senate floor. On its last day of committee deliberation on May 22, 2013, a provision allowing children of Filipino World War II veterans to immigrate immediately, irrespective of priority dates, was adopted as one of the many amendments.
It is now part of the senate version of the comprehensive immigration reform measure. The inclusion of that specific amendment to the pending petitions will greatly benefit the sons and daughters of Filipino veterans?
The mortality rate of what is often referred to as the “greatest generation” is high; approximately 1,153 veterans die every day based on information provided by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. This is the figure for all veterans in the United States. Our Filipino World War II veterans who were naturalized US citizens are also passing on at an accelerated rate due to their age. Most of them are in their late 80s and early 90s.
As more veterans pass away, beneficiary-children of their pending petitions lose out on their opportunity to immigrate to the United States. This is a result of the general rule that the “petition dies with the petitioner.” There are a few exceptions due to humanitarian revalidation.
A typical case
Jessie is an adult married son of a World War II veteran. With the enactment of the 1990 Immigration and Nationality Act (IMMACT90), thousands of World War II veterans were allowed to acquire US citizenship. In the early 1990s, there was an influx of elderly veterans immigrating for the first time. Felipe was one of the veterans who arrived in 1992. Jessie, his son, accompanied his father but entered only with a visitor’s visa.
When Felipe obtained his US citizenship, he immediately petitioned all his children. Since Jessie was already in the United States at that time, he opted to wait for his visa. Initially, Jessie assumed that the visa would be issued as soon as the petition is approved. He was told that since he is an adult child, he would have to wait at least 18 to 20 years before he can adjust his status. By the time Jessie discovered this requirement, his authorized stay had expired. Since 1993, he has been living as an undocumented immigrant.
Jessie’s siblings in the Philippines who were also petitioned fell under the third-preference family category and have also been waiting for their petitions to be processed. As married children, they were told that it would take more than 20 years because of the backlog in family petitions.
In April 2013, the priority date of Jessie’s petition filed by his father became current. After waiting for almost 20 years, he was finally told that he was eligible to apply for his adjustment to permanent resident status. As he was preparing his documents, his father suffered a heart attack and died.
Jessie was informed that he could still apply for the visa despite his petitioner’s death because of Section 204(l) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows the petitioned child to reinstate the revoked visa petition as long as he or she was in the United States at the time of the death of the petitioner. However, his siblings in the Philippines lost their opportunity to immigrate because they were not covered by this humanitarian reinstatement.
Thousands of sons and daughters of Filipino veterans experience the same fate as Jessie’s siblings. The hope of family reunification by elderly Filipino veterans is still an elusive dream. The new bill addresses this issue.
Family reunification act
Considering that the veterans became US citizens only when they were in their 70s and 80s, the length of time required to process the petitions for their adult children did not work in their favor. By the time the priority dates became current, most veterans had passed away. In order to expedite the reunification of the Filipino veterans with their families, a Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act has been introduced. The bill pertains to sons and daughters of Filipino World War II. Their visa petitions will be exempt from the numerical limitation, making the visas immediately available irrespective of their priority dates or dates of filing. The family reunification bill benefits families of all qualified veterans, including the deceased veterans. Rep. Mike Honda (CA17), Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (HI) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI) are the proponents of the bill.
Unlike in the past Congresses, this time the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act took a major leap. With the amendment proposed by Senator Hirono on May 22, 2013, the veteran’s bill is now a part of the Senate version of the comprehensive immigration bill. Although this is a big step, there will be more challenges with the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. If the House adopts the same provision on its comprehensive immigration reform, then doors will open for the descendants of the Filipino veterans, without further delay. Hopefully, the bill will overcome the hurdles and make the dream of reunification a reality for our veterans and their families.
(Attorney Lourdes Tancinco may be reached at law@
tancinco.com or at 8877177 or 7211963 or visit her website at www.tancinco.com.)