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New Obama policy allows family of WWII vets to live, work in US

/ 05:29 AM July 17, 2015
Filipino American community leaders, supporters, students and Philippine Embassy officials observing the 71st anniversary of the Fall of Bataan with a wreath-laying ceremony on April 9 at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. FILE PHOTO

Filipino American community leaders, supporters, students and Philippine Embassy officials observing the 71st anniversary of the Fall of Bataan with a wreath-laying ceremony on April 9 at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. FILE PHOTO

LOS ANGELES—Aging Filipino-American veterans of World War II will soon be able to reunite with family members who have been waiting for years to join them in the United States.

A new policy, announced by the White House Thursday (in Manila), will allow children of the Fil-Am veterans to live and work in the United States.

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The veterans “have endured so much pain waiting for many years for this to happen,” said National Federation of Filipino American Associations (Naffaa) chair JT Mallonga, who hailed the Obama administration’s latest executive action on immigration that would benefit thousands of Fil-Am veterans.

“Our veterans are now in their late 80s and 90s and many of them need care giving by family members, but their families currently have to wait many years to come to the United States,” said immigration and human rights lawyer Arnedo Valera, who serves as legal counsel of the Los Angeles-based Justice for Filipino American Veterans.

The new policy will create a shorter immigration path for these families allowing certain family members to come to the United States under parole status on a case-by-case basis.

The announcement came as part of a report issued by the Visa Modernization Task Force, an interagency group created in November last year as part of Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

“This is a day to celebrate,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which issued a report last month calling on Obama to grant parole for children of Filipino World War II veterans.

Moua said it took more than 50 years before Filipino World War II veterans received their US citizenship, which the US government promised to grant to them in recognition of their service and contributions to America.

Backlog

“Until now, the inhumanely long visa backlog has separated them from their children and denied them the opportunity to live together in the United States,” Moua said in a statement.

“We’re grateful the Obama

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administration is taking action so our veterans can be reunited with their children and receive the love and care they need during their golden years,” he added.

“It’s long past time the United States made good on its promise and we hope (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) will implement this as soon as possible.”

The Naffaa capitol region chair, Marites “Bing” Branigin, welcomed the news with mixed feelings.

“My first reaction was happiness,” she said. “But I am also saddened, remembering our (now deceased) veterans like Manong Emong Guillermo and Jack Tejada and community champions like Alex Esclamado who walked the halls of Congress, fighting for recognition and family reunification.”

“They are gone now but their legacy lives on,” said Branigin, who works closely with Asian Americans Advancing Justice and other immigrant rights and veterans advocacy groups.

As many as 26,000 Filipino World War II veterans became US citizens and an estimated 6,000 of them are still alive and living in the United States, according to the White House.

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TAGS: Filipino-American veterans, Immigration, new policy, Obama, US, veterans’ family members
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