Beginning June 8, 2016, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services will accept applications for parole from eligible children of Filipino WWII veterans. This is a positive development for veterans who have been waiting for many years to be reunited with their children. However, this policy is being implemented at a time when many of our veterans, or their widows, have passed on or are elderly. Will they be able to reap any benefit from this program?
Family-based preference visas are numerically limited per year, resulting in significant waiting periods for immigrant visa issuance. For the Philippines, the waiting period for first preference immigrant category covering adult, single children of US citizens is almost 10 years.
Worse yet, it is taking more than 20 years for married children of US citizens. Many elderly veterans with petitions have gone on from this world unable to wait for their children to immigrate. Of those still alive, many are now sickly and living alone.
Due to the dysfunction of the US immigration system, President Obama released a 2015 report called the “Modernizing and Streamlining of the Immigration System,” which included a mandate to allow the families of Filipino veterans to enter the United States. Hence, the parole program was conceived.
Unlike a US visa, a discretionary grant of parole allows a person to temporarily enter the US for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. The new parole program will allow the children of Filipino WWII veterans who have approved petitions to come to the US while waiting for their immigrant visas.
Recently, I gathered a group of veterans and widows in San Francisco to make a presentation on the parole program. I explained clearly to them that with this parole program, they will soon be reunited with their children in the coming months. As I was speaking with excitement, the veterans seemed quiet instead of their usual smiles and celebratory noise. Were they in shock that their children would soon be coming to the US? Why didn’t they seem happy? Don’t they understand the impact of this parole program?
It was disheartening to see their joyless reactions. After I spoke, I approached Nana Auring, a widow of a veteran, who appeared downcast during my presentation. She whispered to me, “I was told to wait. That’s what I have been doing.”
I told Nana she didn’t have to wait long anymore because of the parole program. She just sadly nodded. Her husband died waiting to be reunited with their children. She’s been living alone in her room for many years just waiting. At that point, I realized I was addressing elderly and ailing seniors in their late 80s and early 90s who had already given up hope.
The few veterans and widows who attended my presentation may not be representative of all the beneficiaries of the program. To many, I believe, this opportunity of coming to the US through parole, will help realize the lifetime dream of many Filipino veterans (or their widows) wishing for family reunification. To some, this will be too little too late.
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