During today's Senate Judiciary Committee markup of immigration reform legislation, the committee adopted Senator Mazie K. Hirono's measure that would reunite Filipino World War II veterans with their families. The long-overdue measure has been the priority of Hawaii's congressional delegation for many years. The provision was the first bill Hirono introduced as a member of the United States Senate in March of this year.
"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," Hirono said. "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. I am pleased to see my bill included in the immigration reform legislation the full Senate will consider."
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.
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 measure. The group lauded her efforts to reintroduce the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act.
"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 in March. "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."