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Philippine American Bar Association
President: John De La Merced, firstname.lastname@example.org
PABA Urges The Trump Administration To Continue Family-Based Reunification For Filipino World War II Veterans
CALIFORNIA — The Philippine American Bar Association (“PABA”) is disappointed to learn of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (“USCIS”) decision to terminate the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole program (“FWVP” program). The program allowed Filipino veterans of World War II living in the United States to reunify with family members.
During World War II, more than 260,000 Filipinos served under the US flag in the Pacific.FN1 They fought alongside US troops and put their lives on the line in defense of US interests—with many losing their lives.FN2 Although they were promised full veterans benefits for serving in the US Armed Forces, the US Congress and President Truman—through the Rescission Acts of 1946—unjustly stripped them of these benefits and denied Filipino veterans recognition as US military veterans.FN3 Only after decades of protests, lobbying and lawsuits were Filipino veterans and their supporters able to win some benefits back.FN4 Nonetheless, to date, they have not received the full benefits that they were promised and their contributions and sacrifices remain under-recognized.
One of the benefits that Filipino veterans and their supporters won was the FWVP program. After the war, many Filipino veterans moved to the United States and became US citizens.FN5 However, they faced obstacles in bringing their relatives, including adult children, to the United States because of quota restrictions and decades-long visa backlogs.FN6 The FWVP program, which went into effect in 2016, allowed Filipino veterans who are recognized by the Department of Defense and their widows to apply to sponsor family members to temporarily enter and remain in the United States.FN7
The FWVP program has allowed aging Filipino veterans and their widows to spend their remaining years with a loved one and obtain care and support from that loved one. For example, last year, 89-year-old Filipino World War II Veteran Rudy Panaglima was able to bring two of his four adult children to the United States to care for him and for his 86-year-old wife.FN8 The timing of their children’s arrival was critical: Panaglima’s wife suffered from Alzheimer’s and recently passed away.FN9 Since taking effect, nearly 300 families have been reunited in the USFN10 and many more remain eligible to participate in the program.FN11
The USCIS’s decision to end the FWVP program deprives Filipino veterans, who already have experienced the betrayal of having their promised and earned benefits stripped away, of important relief during the twilight of their life. The FWVP program had been an important step in addressing the injustice inflicted by the Rescission Acts. PABA believes that the USCIS’s decision is a disappointing step backwards. PABA strongly urges the Trump administration to reverse the USCIS’s decision and continue the FWVP program. World War II was over seventy years ago. If at least one Filipino veteran needs to bring over a loved one to care for them, they should be given that support expeditiously.
PABA is the oldest and largest local group of Filipino-American attorneys. It was formed to address legal issues affecting the Filipino-American community and to support the Filipino-American lawyers and law students in Southern California. PABA sponsors community legal clinics and provides pro bono legal services. PABA also provides continuing legal education seminars and professional development opportunities for its members, and assists Filipino-American law students through mentorship programs and scholarships. Among many other community projects, PABA previously has fundraised to support the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project’s efforts to help WWII Filipino veterans and their families obtain congressional medals honoring their sacrifice and fund legacy preservation and education programs.
FN1 Chris Fuchs, Congressional Gold Medal for Filipino World War II Vets Is an Honor ’75 Years in the Making’, nbcnews.com, Oct. 25, 2017, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/
FN2 Michael A. Cabotaje, Equity Denied: Historical and Legal Analyses in Support of the Extension of U.S. Veterans’ Benefits to Filipino World War II Veterans, Asian Am. L.J. 67, 72–77 (Jan. 1999).
FN3 Id. at 77–80; Rescission Act of 1946, 38 U.S.C. § 107, https://uscode.house.gov/view.
FN4 Fuchs, supra note 1; The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, https://www.filvetrep.org/ (last visited Aug. 20, 2019).
FN5 Cabotaje, supra note 2, at 69.
FN6 Emil Guillermo, New Immigration Rule Enables Filipino WWII Vets to Reunite with Family, nbcnews.com, May 9, 2016, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/
FN7 Archive News of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, USCIS to Implement Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program, https://www.uscis.gov/archive/
FN8 Release by The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, Filipino World War II Veterans Decry Termination of Family Reunification Program, Aug. 6, 2017, https://www.filvetrep.org/
FN10 Press Release by Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Hirono Promotes Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program, Encourages Eligible Veterans to Apply for Program before 2021 Deadline, July 3, 2019, https://www.hirono.senate.gov/
FN11 Guillermo, supra note 6 (“. . . USCIS estimates that the family members of approximately 2,000 to 6,000 veterans would be eligible.”).