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What Went Before: Filipino veterans’ quest for US rights

/ 05:46 AM July 17, 2015

About 260,000 Filipinos fought for the United States during World War II and were promised equal treatment as the American veterans after the war.

But in 1946, the US Congress enacted the Rescission Act that took away full recognition of the Filipinos and stripped them of their benefits, leaving bitterness in the former colony. Decades of campaigning followed to change US policy.

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In 1990, Congress passed a bill allowing thousands of veterans in the Philippines to immigrate and become US citizens.

For decades, Filipino-American veterans have also pushed for immigration rights and the same access to benefits as other World War II veterans for their children.

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In 2007, the Fil-Am veterans lobbied for legislation entitling them to the same benefits as the American soldiers they fought with side-by-side against the Japanese.

They also asked then US Rep. Maize Hirono to support legislation that would enable the aging former soldiers to quickly bring their sons and daughters to the United States.

In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed, authorizing the release of a one-time, lump-sum payment to eligible World War II Filipino veterans.

Meanwhile, the children of the veterans were not yet allowed to join their parents in America. Instead, they have been forced to languish on immigration waiting lists, dividing many families.

In November last year, President Barack Obama outlined an immigration reform plan that would shield up to 5 million immigrants, including tens of thousands of Filipinos, from deportation.

In March, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid and Hirono, now Hawaii senator, introduced the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act, which sought to hasten the visa process for children of Filipino World War II veterans. A counterpart measure was introduced by Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai.–Inquirer Research

Sources: Inquirer Archives, reid.senate.gov, takai.house.gov

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TAGS: Filipino-American veterans, Philippines, rights and justice, US, Veterans
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