Senator Mazie K. Hirono today introduced her first bill as a United States Senator -- legislation that would reunite Filipino World War II veterans with their families. The long-overdue legislation, which has been the priority of Hawaii's congressional delegation for many years, could gain new life as the Senate drafts and marks up immigration reform legislation. This legislation underscores Hirono's immigration reform approach of bringing families together and assisting communities whose voices aren't often heard in Washington.
"Immigration reform should reflect our values and these are the types of ideas I will be working to include in the final legislation," said Hirono. "Our nation can never fully repay the debt we owe the Filipino World War II veterans who bravely served and sacrificed alongside Americans in the critical South West Pacific Theatre. The brave servicemen who are still with us, now in their eighties and nineties, should not have to wait any longer in order to be reunited with their children. As the Senate dives into immigration reform legislation, I will be working very closely with my colleagues to include these types of ideas in the final proposal."
Thousands of Filipino veterans were granted citizenship in recognition of their service to the United States in World War II. Their children, however, were not granted citizenship. As a result, the veterans who came to the United States could only sponsor their children by filing a petition and "getting in line." The backlogs affecting Filipino immigration applications are over twenty years in some cases, and these veterans, now in their 80s and 90s, have had to wait in the U.S. without their children for many years.
Hirono has a key perch to influence immigration reform legislation as she sits on the both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration that will mark up immigration reform legislation.
The American Coalition of Filipino Veterans estimates that 20,000 sons and daughters of U.S. Filipino World War II veterans will directly benefit from Hirono's legislation. The group lauded her efforts.
"We applaud Sen. Hirono's great decision in reintroducing the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification bill," Eric Lachica, Executive Director for the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans said. "The Hirono bill will keep the approved immigration petitions and hopes of our Filipino American World War II heroes alive after they fade away. We are glad Senator Hirono continues to fight for the legacy of Senators Akaka and Inouye for their Filipino comrades. Salamat po! Mabuhay Senator Hirono."
Eliminating the immigration backlog for the families of Filipino World War II vets has long been a priority of Hawaii's delegation. Hawaii Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa will introduce the bill in the House of Representatives.