The Obama administration recently announced that Filipino World War II veterans will soon be able to bring their families to the United States. After years of waiting, the new policy, which is part of the President’s executive actions, will allow family members of the veterans to enter the country under a parole status and finally reunite them in the U.S.
Immigrant advocates believe that the new policy does justice to Filipino World War II veterans who served and fought under the American flag. After the war, it took 50 years before the veterans were able to receive the citizenship and benefits they were promised.
Immigrant rights activists staunchly advocated for Filipino World War II veterans who have been unjustly denied benefits for many years. Since the midseventies, we have also written position papers and articles, including a law journal article, arguing and advocating for the rights of Filipino World War II veterans and their children.
Finally, in the 1990s, around 26,000 Filipinos World War II veterans received citizenship. According to the White House, about 6,000 of them are still alive and living in the U.S. The veterans are now elderly and need their families to care of them.
Unfortunately, the benefits the veterans received did not include their children. They had to petition their children under the general family immigration process for them to come to the U.S.
Because of the problem on visa backlog, the wait period for a visa number to become available under the family-based preferences can take years. The backlog means decades of waiting for applicants under the Philippine F1 category (unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) and F3 category (married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens). Many are concerned that with the old age of the veterans, they might not live to see the day their families can legally join them in the U.S.
Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, pointed out, “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. We’re grateful the Obama 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.”
According to the White House, the program will allow certain family members of the veterans to seek parole so they can come to the U.S. Parole status will be granted on a case-to-case basis. They will be able to live and work in the U.S. and will be allowed to adjust to permanent residence.
Lawmakers, such as Sen. Mazie Hirono, who proposed a number of bills on the issue, said that the move was long overdue. “Many Filipino veterans have waited decades to be reunited with their children – today’s action is the right thing to do for these brave people who served our country.” She went on to say, “We made a promise to these individuals, and expediting reunification with their children through parole brings us one significant step closer to that promise.”
The new policy is part of the President’s executive actions aimed at modernizing and streamlining the legal immigration system.