A bill that would make it easier for World War II Filipino veterans to be reunited with their families today won the support of two influential senators, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez.
Menendez is part of a bipartisan group of senators who has been working on a package of immigration reforms, and his backing is a hopeful sign the cause of the Filipino veterans will be a part of the immigration discussion. However, it was unknown if it will be included in the as-yet-unreleased package. Reid and Menendez declined to say if their support was influenced by Sen. Daniel Inouye’s long-time push for it.
A spokesman for Sen. Mazie Hirono, who sponsored the bill, said the senator was “hopeful” of it being proposed as part of the package or added to it as an amendment. Sen. Brian Schatz is a co-sponsor of the bill.
Reid and Menendez’s support buoyed the hopes of veterans. Eric Lachica, executive director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, said, “We are very much optimistic. We have been assured by the staff of Reid, Hirono, Schatz and Menendez our bill is non-controversial and will be included in any final comprehensive immigration reform legislation.”
The bill would waive the relatives of the veterans, who fought alongside U.S. troops during the war, from being subject to annual limits on how many Filipinos are allowed to immigrater. Because of those limits, the veterans said they’ve waited decades for their families to be given permission to join them.
Reid, D-NV, said in a statement, “In 1941, 250,000 Filipino veterans answered a call-to-arms by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and traveled to the far corners of the earth to protect the American virtues of freedom, liberty, and justice. It is time these brave patriots are reunited with their loved ones.”
Menendez in a statement said, “No service member – especially aging Filipino veterans who served shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers in WWII – should have to wait to be reunited with their families because of our outdated immigration system.”
Hirono’s statement said, “Our nation can never fully repay the debt we owe the Filipino World War II veterans who bravely served and sacrificed alongside American forces. 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.”
— Kery Murakami