Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) today helped unveil key components of a comprehensive immigration package that includes legislation she introduced aimed at reuniting Filipino World War II veterans and their children.
The Reuniting Families Act, introduced today by Congressman Michael Honda (D-California), ends lengthy separations of loved ones, promotes family stability and fosters the economic growth that immigrant families have provided throughout our history.
Congresswoman Hirono, an original co-sponsor of the Honda bill, introduced the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act during the past two congressional sessions. The Act proposes to exempt the sons and daughters of Filipino World War II from the cap on immigration numbers that have delayed for up to two decades their receiving of immigrant visas to the United States. The language established in the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act has been incorporated into the Reuniting Families Act.
"I have listened to many heartbreaking stories of sons and daughters of our Filipino World War II veterans waiting patiently in the Philippines with the hope that one day they will be able to come to the United States to care for their aging parents," said Hirono. "I am glad that the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act is a part of the Reuniting Families Act."
Some 200,000 Filipinos served with American troops in World War II. Today, some 18,000 are still alive, with thousands in the United States. About a third of these veterans live in the state of Hawaii.
"The Reuniting Families Act should be at the heart of comprehensive immigration reform. Our system has not been updated in 20 years, separating spouses, children, siblings and their parents, who have played by the rules, for years, often decades," said Congressman Honda. "Our legislation is in line with both American family values and with our short-term need to grow our economy and save taxpayer money."
In addition, the Reuniting Families act does the following:
Recaptures unused family-based and employment-based visas previously allocated by Congress which remain unused.
Allows a green card holder to reunite with their spouses and minor children: The bill classifies the children and spouses of lawful permanent residents as "immediate relatives." This would allow lawful permanent residence spouses and children to immediately qualify for a visa.
Increases the per country limits of family and employment-based visas from 7% to 10%: Right now, each country only has a 7% share of the total cap of visas that Congress allocates each year. Increasing each country's percentage of visas would eliminate the absurdly long wait times for individuals to immigrant from certain countries like the Philippines, China, and India.
Allows orphans, widows and widowers to immigrate despite death of a petitioner.
Promotes family unity by allowing more people to use the system: The bill gives the Attorney General greater flexibility to address numerous hardships, including family separation, caused by a provision that bars individuals who had been unlawfully present in the United States from utilizing our legal immigration system.
Ends discrimination in immigration law, allowing same-sex partners to reunite.