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Bill eases US visa restrictions on war vets

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By SAMMY JULIAN Manila News Bureau Chief

MANILA – The United States Senate Judiciary Committee approved another amendment to its immigration bill with the aim of reuniting Filipino World War II veterans in the US with their families in the Philippines.

The amendment pushed by Hawaii’s Sen. Mazie Hirono sought to exempt children of certain Filipino veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas and for other purposes.

Hirono’s measure was added in the comprehensive immigration reform bill as Section 2320 and cited as the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act.

“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,” Hirono said in a statement issued following the approval of the bill.

“The brave servicemen who are still with us, now in their 80s and 90s, should not have to wait any longer to be reunited with their children,” he added.

According to the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, thousands of Filipino veterans were granted citizenship in recognition of their service to the US in World War II.

However, their children were not granted citizenship; veterans who came to the US could only sponsor them by filing a petition.

The embassy said the backlogs in applications are over 20 years in some cases.

“Veterans have had to wait without their children for many years,” it said as it welcomed the approval of Hirono’s measure.

Data from the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans showed 20,000 sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans will directly benefit from Hirono’s measure.

With the approval by the judiciary committee, the massive immigration reform bill, which includes the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act, will now be debated by the entire US Senate./PN