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Filipino WWII veterans used to cover up for senators’ inaction on family unification


OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE, THEY JUST FADE AWAY Celestino Carpio, 89, Tomas Mendoza, 92, and Apolonio de la Cruz, 92—who fought Japanese forces in World War II—manage snappy salutes during the 71st Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) commemoration on Mount Samat in Pilar, Bataan, on Tuesday, April 9, 2013. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

It used to be the victims of the Japanese American internment camps.

Now it’s the Filipino veterans of WWII who provide the penance and cover for politicians and all their sinful ways.

Last week in Washington, D.C., Celestino Almeda, a frail 96, and the spokesperson for the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, gladly acknowledged and thanked the members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for passing  an amendment by voice vote that would speed up the immigration process for their families.

Currently, the Filipino WWII veterans who were able to immigrate to the U.S. remain separated from their families. Many of the relatives who wait to be re-united have done so for more than a decade.

The amendment, introduced by Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, would allow adult children of living or deceased Filipino American WWII veterans to get immediate priority for visas if the bill is approved by the full Congress and signed by the President. The coalition estimates that 20,000 visas could be issued because of the amendment.

That’s great. But it was the lone family reunification amendment out of 11 submitted by Hirono that was voted in by her colleagues on the committee.

And that’s the tragedy of this new effort for comprehensive immigration reform. It’s not quite comprehensive enough.  Family unification, the kind that Teddy Kennedy fought for, no longer is at the heart of the matter.

Now it’s all a about border security, making sure undocumented people don’t get in scott-free for breaking the law.

It’s also more about money ties rather than blood ties.

Your family here? So what?  The visas for siblings and older married children have been eliminated. And Hirono’s amendments to restore them failed.

But industries that need workers get their visas. Facebook and friends, get their stem workers.

Manang Baby and Manong Boy, sorry na lang. We’ll send you a balikbayan box, but not a visa.

The exception? The veteranos, who  have had to fight for the slow drip of benefits from Congress over the years.

Didn’t they win their fight for equity a few years back? Not entirely. There’s still the matter of proving service (not helped when records were lost), as well as a fight over pension benefits for those in the Philippines, and this matter of family re-unification.

Meanwhile, Congress has continued to use the veterans for political purposes. Every time legislators need a “feel good” moment, they slice off a bit of justice owed to the veterans, and then show off about what a good thing they’ve done for these aging warriors.

It was a ready-made ploy for the immigration bill.

In reality, it was all political show biz and a sop to Asian Americans, since both the House and the Senate have already approved similar measures to speed up the visa applications of veterans’ older children.

More than 200 Asian American groups signed an open letter to the committee backing the family unification efforts of Hirono, defining it as a major community issue.

But only the veterans and their families got some good news in time for Memorial Day in the U.S.

The politicians shouldn’t expect us to be happy as they greet us at their holiday events.

Groups will feel the sting of compromise and say they’re “disappointed.” But that’s not enough. The push should continue for an immigration reform policy that’s more humanistic than corporate.

That would be an immigration bill worthy of our community’s total support.

(Emil Guillermo is an award-winning Filipino American journalist based in California. twitter@emilamok, www.amok.com

Emil Guillermo

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Tags: American Coalition for Filipino Veterans , Filipino Veterans , Filipino WWII Veterans , World War II Veterans

  • batangpaslit

    sad item, but great piece. kudos Emil for keeping the ember burning in honor of the Filipino Veterans that offered their lives in defense of democracy; but, are not recognized

    • kanoy


      • http://information555.blog94.fc2.com/ xfileFC2

        I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

      • kanoy

        MY DEAR I DON’T GIVE A DAM” (WHO DON’T LIKE IT)……..America’s
        oldest living veteran plans to celebrate Memorial Day at his Texas home
        like he always does: on the porch, smoking a cigar and sipping a cup of
        coffee stiffened with whiskey.Richard Arvine Overton, a 107-year-old
        World War II veteran, was formally recognized as the country’s oldest
        living veteran earlier this month, traveling to Washington, D.C., for
        the first time.

    • foreignerph

      The Filipino WWII veterans fought for the liberation of their own country, not of the US. As a consequence, the PH should pay their benefits, not the US. If they insist on family reunion, they can as well return to the PH to enjoy their family.


        Obviously you are writing about a subject of which you are glaringly uneducated. The war was between the U.S. and Japan. The Filipinos veterans were conscripted by the Americans to help America fight their war. The Japanese were welcomed all over Asia as liberators form white colonialists.

  • joboni96

    matagal ng ginagamit ng imperyalistang u.s.
    tayong mga pilipino

    mula pa sa tatay ni atakbo sa australia makartur
    hanggang sa mga gro at collaborators sa gobyerno

    tuloy ang kolonisadong utak

    • George Paralolo

      eh bakit, japan talo giyera, ngayon mayaman, hindi pushover ng merika. tsaka south korea, dati hirap hirap, ngayon hindi pushover ng merika?. kaya ikaw joboni96, magtsumikap ka, huwag mong I excuse ang mga kano at kolonisasyon, luma na yan, kumita na noon, di na puede ngayon.

  • RightCowLeftCoast

    Unfortunately, this is an issue that goes back to the Recission Act of 1946 signed into law by President Truman, and the loss of American National status with the signing of the Philippine Independence Act signed by President F.D. Roosevelt. A solution, which is not often supported, is giving back the American National status to those living/surviving veterans, their spouses, and children by birth.

  • joboni96

    George Paralolo

    mag aral ka pa
    siyasatin mo kung bakit

    read joboni96 everyday
    nang maliwanagan ka

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