WASHINGTON – Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act on March 13 to expedite the visa process for children of Filipino World War II veterans.

These veterans were offered U.S. citizenship in recognition of their service, but this hard-earned benefit did not extend to their children. Thousands of families have been separated for decades because of this oversight.

Sen. Mazie Hirono
Sen. Mazie Hirono

“Time is running out for the diminishing number of Filipino World War II veterans who fought and sacrificed alongside American servicemen. We as a nation made a promise to these veterans that must be kept,” said Hirono. “These brave soldiers didn’t flinch when the United States called them to battle in the Pacific Theater. The few surviving veterans are in their 80s and 90s and have been waiting for more than a half-century to be reunited with loved ones and we owe this benefit to them.

“While this bill helps thousands of World War II veterans and their families, we still must come together pass permanent comprehensive immigration reform. As an immigrant who came to the United States with my mother at a young age, I remain committed to the fact that any effort to reform our immigration system should also address the challenges families face.”

“Over 260,000 brave Filipino veterans made a great sacrifice and answered America’s call to serve in World War II. Now it is time we properly thank these patriots for their service,” said Reid. “No service member should be prevented from reuniting with their families because of our antiquated immigration system. This legislation will right that wrong and provide for the reunification of aging Filipino World War II veterans and their families.

“I am proud to represent over 100,000 Filipino Americans in Nevada and I know the contributions they have made to make our country great. This legislation will ensure these brave veterans know how thankful we are for their noble service.”

Filipino veterans were granted citizenship in recognition of their service to the U.S. in World War II. Their children, however, were not granted citizenship. Currently, veterans must file for a family visa to be reunited with their children in the U.S. It can take more than 20 years for these applications to be reviewed.

The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act exempts the veterans’ children, about 20,000 individuals in all, from the numerical limitation on immigrant visas.

Reid and Hirono made fighting for Filipino veterans to receive this benefit a top priority in during their time in Congress, but it grows more urgent every year. Of the surviving Filipino World War II veterans, it is estimated that less than 6,000 are U.S. citizens and reside in this country and will thus be able to take advantage of this bill.

The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act was included in the bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013 (S. 744), and Hirono and Reid urged Republicans to take up this bill that “helps Filipino veteran families and fixes our entire broken immigration system once and for all.”

The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act was introduced with the following original co-sponsors: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

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