|UNITED STATES SEN. REID SEN. HIRONO and SEN. KAINE
By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
WASHINGTON (JGL) – Three U. S. senators have joined the call of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) and other grassroots organizations to implement a “parole program for certain family members of Filipino World War II veterans” that was discussed in your “July 15, 2015, Presidential Memorandum that included recommendations to modernize and streamline our broken immigration system for individuals and families in the United States.”
The joint letter signed by Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) received by this reporter from a grandson of a Filipino veteran, who sought the help of the senators to expedite his family petition by including grandchildren among family members, who could benefit from President Obama’s program to extend parole visas to family members of Filipino World War II veterans.
In their letter dated Dec. 4, 2015 to President Obama, Senators Reid, Kaine and Hirono said, “We applaud your Administration’s continued work to improve this system, and respectfully request that you take into consideration the following recommendations related to the implementation of the program of parole for certain family members of Filipino World War II veterans, which was included in the Memorandum.
“These veterans responded to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call to arms in 1941, and, by the time the war ended in 1945, an estimated 260,000 Filipino soldiers had participated in the American war effort. However, despite the promise of naturalization for their service, many Filipino veterans did not receive citizenship until after 1990, the year President George H.W. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990, which included a provision that offered naturalized citizenship for Filipino World War II veterans.
“Today, there are likely less than 5,000 surviving Filipino World War II veterans. Like most elderly Americans, these veterans are likely to become more reliant on family members for care as they grow older. Because of the current family-based visa backlog extending back more than 27 years, it is imperative now to implement the program of parole for family members of Filipino veterans as soon as possible.”
The senators recommended that the Department of Homeland Security “develop and implement this program as quickly as possible. As stated above, there are likely less than 5,000 surviving Filipino World War II veterans, and that number will only decline. Ideally, the program would be formally launched, with applications accepted, by the end of 2015.”
They added, “[T]he Administration, at a minimum, [should] allow the spouses, widows, and children of Filipino veterans with approved I-130 petitions to apply for parole regardless of expected priority dates. Children of these veterans may now be adults or minors, married or single. Regardless of these factors, children should be allowed to apply for parole under the program.
“Further, the children of deceased veterans should be allowed to apply for parole to care for the widows of Filipino veterans. This recommendation will allow the children of deceased veterans to take care of parents, who are the surviving spouses of these veterans at a time when they need care the most.
“Last, the children of veterans should be allowed to apply for parole and employment authorization so that those without legal status can care for their parents. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should implement its policy of “parole in place” for Filipino veterans and their family members to this end.
“[W]e request that [“visas of] all family members that are determined eligible to apply for the parole program” are expedited “[b]ecause of time constraints and humanitarian factors facing Filipino veterans [and] family should not have to apply affirmatively under an expedited process that does not require case by case invitations.
“Additionally, as the Administration, and DHS specifically, work to verify the veterans statuses of Filipino veterans, we request that you accept a broad array of documents, including affidavits and military discharge papers issued by the Philippine government, so that the greatest number of Filipino veterans can benefit from the program. We urge DHS to work closely with the Department of Defense (DOD), the Veterans Administration (VA), veterans advocates, and community leaders to ensure that all available records are used to determine eligibility.
“In conclusion, we look forward to the Administration’s implementation of the family parole program, and encourage you to work closely with community leaders and other stakeholders to develop a strong outreach plan that will allow these stakeholders to disseminate information to veterans and their family members both here in the United Stares and abroad — specifically in the Philippines. This outreach plan should, at a minimum, include materials translated in Tagalog, Ilocano and Cebuano.”
Meanwhile, the AAJC thru Erin Oshiro and eight other grassroots organizations, including the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), in a joint letter to President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson dated Jan. 21, 2016 told President Obama and Secretary Johnson that they are writing “concerning implementation of the parole program for certain family members of Filipino World War II veterans.
“We are grateful that the White House announced in July 2015 that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would utilize the parole process to help these families reunite more quickly, but we are disappointed the program has not yet begun.
Aside from AAJC and NaFFAA, other signatories to the letter are Filipino Advocates for Justice, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), Asian Pacific American Advocates, San Francisco Veterans Equity Center and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.
The letter was coursed thru Director Leon Rodriguez of the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, Director Cecilia Munoz of Domestic Policy Council and Homeland Deputy Assistant Secretary Esther Olavarria.
The letter said, “Advocates submitted detailed policy recommendations to the Administration in August 2015. Concerning the program’s implementation. We appreciated the opportunity to share our recommendations directly with the White House, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the State Department in September 2015. At that meeting, we were assured that the Administration was moving quickly to implement the program. Given the advanced age of many veterans, everyone recognizes the urgency of immediate and broad implementation to benefit as many family members as possible.”
Mr. Leslie Reyes Larosa, 39, of Cebu City, Philippines, a grandson of Simplicio Magallon Larosa, who was honorably discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 1945, wrote the letter to U.S. authorities. His grandfather served under the American Merchant Marine from Dec. 7, 1941 and Dec. 31. 1946.
In his letter to the U.S. Embassy, Mr. Larosa asked the U.S. authorities to expedite his family preference petition (F-4 Brothers and sisters of a U.S. Citizen) so he can take care of his mother, Monalinda R. Larosa, living in San Mateo, California and daughter of the Filipino veteran. Monalinda works as a caregiver.
Mr. Larosa, in turn, received a letter from Maura J. Nicholson, Deputy Chief International Operations Division of the US Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, informing him that the U.S. CIS “is not yet accepting applications for the FWVP (Filipino-American World War II Veterans Parole) Program, and another letter from from Senators Reid, Kaine and Hirono. (JGLfirstname.lastname@example.org via PhilAmPress/)