Sen. Mazie K. Hirono [D-HI] (biography.com)
By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA (email@example.com)
(© 2013 Fil Am Extra Exchange)
Sen. Mazie K. Hirono [D-HI] picked up where retired Hawaiian Sen. Daniel K. Akaka and former Hawaiian Rep. Ed Case she beat left off – filed Senate Bill No. 461 Tuesday (March 5) “to exempt children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas and for other purposes.”
Co-sponsored by five other Senators Harry Reid [D-NV], Barbara Boxer [D-CA], Robert Menendez [D-NJ], Brian Schatz [D-HI] and Mark Begich [D-AK], the senate bill to be known as “Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act of 2013” will amend Section 201(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1151(b)(1), adding “(F) Aliens who– `(i) are eligible for a visa under paragraph (1) or (3) of section 203(a); and `(ii) have a parent (regardless of whether the parent is living or dead) who was naturalized pursuant to– `(I) section 405 of the Immigration Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-649; 8 U.S.C. 1440 note); or `(II) title III of the Act of October 14, 1940 (54 Stat. 1137, chapter 876), as added by section 1001 of the Second War Powers Act, 1942 (56 Stat. 182, chapter 199).”
This was the same language of the bill filed by retired Senator Akaka in 2006, who introduced Senate Amendment 4029, as part of the proposed S. 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, that matched H.R. 901 filed in the House of Representatives by then Representative Case, who lost to Sen. Hirono, during the last senatorial elections in Hawaii last November.
Senator Dick Durbin [D-IL] and Rep. Luis Gutierrez [D-IL-4th] earlier agreed to include children of Filipino World War II veterans to be exempted from numerical limitations on immigrants’ visas in the comprehensive immigration reform bill being drafted by the Gang of Eight in the U.S. Senate that would legalize 11 million undocumented immigrants. The other members of the Gang of Eight aside from Senator Durbin are Senators Robert Menendez [D-NJ], Chuck Schumer [D-N.Y.], Michael Bennet [D-Colo.], Marco Rubio [R-FL], Jeff Flake [R-ARIZ.], John McCain [R-ARIZ.] and Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.].
Even Filipino American Lawrence Benito, chief executive officer of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, also expressed support for inclusion of the children of the Filipino veterans for family reunification. He said, “On its (special immigrant status for Filipino veterans’ children’s) merits, this issue is a no brainer. I am going to talk to Sen. Durbin and Rep. Gutierrez to consider this proposal in the comprehensive immigration reform bill. Personally, this is something I would like to support, raising the issue of fairness for these families.”
SEN. HIRONO APPLAUDED
Advocate Eric Lachica, Executive Director of the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans said there about 20,000 sons and daughters of U.S. Filipino World War II veterans, who will benefit from Hirono’s legislation.
“We applaud Sen. Hirono’s great decision in reintroducing the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification bill,” Lachica 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! (a big thank you) Mabuhay (may you leave a hundred years!) 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, according to Hirono’s website.
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.