Updated at 1:38 p.m., Thursday, May 24, 2007
Senate bill helps unite families of Filipino veterans
By AUDREY McAVOY
The Senate approved the amendment 87-9.
"I am extremely pleased that my colleagues in the Senate saw fit to join me in honoring these brave Filipino veterans who fought alongside American troops to achieve victory in World War II," Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, said in a statement. "It would be a great final honor for these heroes to be joined and cared for by their adult children as they move through their golden years."
The U.S. enlisted 200,000 Filipino youth into its military in the 1940s, promising they would get the same benefits and treatment as Americans.
But Washington failed to follow through on this commitment, waiting until recent years to award pension benefits and immigration rights to the former troops.
The children of the veterans, meanwhile, were not allowed to join their parents in the United States. They've instead been forced to languish on immigration waiting lists, dividing many families.
Akaka told the Senate the children of veterans should be able to move to America to take care of their aging parents, now in their 80s and 90s.
Art Caleda, president of the Hawai'i chapter of World War II Filipino-American Veterans, said he was excited by the amendment.
"All of our efforts will not go in vain if things go right," Caleda said.
He added senators would have likely had to abandon the measure if they didn't bundle it with comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
The same strategy failed last year, however, when a measure to reunite Filipino veterans with their children was included in a large omnibus immigration bill that was derailed by disagreements over a border fence and making English the national language.
Debate on this year's broader immigration bill is expected to continue into next month.
The legislation would grant an estimated 12 million unlawful immigrants legal status while improving border security and workplace enforcement.
It's faced intense opposition from some lawmakers, but the Bush administration and key congressional Democrats and Republicans stepped up their efforts today to sell the compromise.
Two other amendments that could have scuttled the bill were narrowly defeated today.
Akaka sponsored the "Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act," which is now part of the main bill.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai'i co-sponsored the legislation, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, and Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, Patty Murray D-Wash., and Maria Cantwell D-Wash.